Disaster

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

Sept 12, 2001

 

 

            Like everybody else, my plans changed. 

On September 11, 2001, I was supposed to be on my way to Washington, D.C., just 50 miles up the road.  I was going there to look at a stained glass window that is being made for our new church.  Then I was going to spend my day off at the beach.

But after the mass the stained glass artist called.  She was leaving Washington for home.  All hell was breaking loose she said.  Traffic was terrible.  The Pentagon had been hit by an airplane.

I ran to the TV.  From that moment on, I was transfixed.  The World Trade Center collapsed before our eyes in horror.  The Pentagon was aflame.  It was unfathomable.

People I knew were at both places.  My sister lives about a mile from the World Trade Center.  Several parishioners work at the Pentagon.

My instinct was to call on the phone, but the TV was asking us to stay off the phones.  I tried calling but the circuits to New York and Washington were busy.  A parishioner called to say that her son, a student at NYU, had gotten through.  He was safe but his dorm near the World Trade Center was being evacuated. Eventually I found out through my mother that everybody in our family in New York was safe.

We canceled our evening religious education classes.  We figured that neither the children nor the teachers could concentrate.

Our parish DRE went home.  Her 18 year-old daughter works on Capitol Hill.   She was evacuated.  Her daughter was beside herself with worry about her fiancé in the Marine Corps.

Everybody was worried about somebody.

The phone started ringing.  People wanted to know if the church was open so they could say a prayer or light a candle.  

People kept coming by to pray.  All the candles in our little chapel were lit.  A small group, assembled to pray the rosary. 

            I was reassured by the presence of the church in the crisis. I saw a priest anointing the injured being brought to St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York.   In Washington, our archbishop, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was seen on TV, after he donated blood and visited the hospital where some of the injured from the Pentagon were taken.  At noon, he celebrated mass at the Shrine in Washington for 4,000 people.  People needed to pray.

When members of Congress assembled on Capitol Hill, I was pleased to see the Chaplain of the House, Fr. Daniel Coughlin, standing behind the speaker.  He led the Representatives in singing “God Bless America.”

I couldn’t help wondered about the perpetrators of these terrible acts.  Were they believers in God?  If so, did they really think that they were doing something pleasing to God?

At supper, a man came by the rectory and asked me to pray for his daughter, who was assigned to the triage center in New York.

            There was a huge desire to do something.  It seemed that the most useful thing that we could do was pray. On Wednesday, September 12, we held a special mass and prayer vigil.  About 150 people came.  An impromptu choir assembled. 

We prayed for peace, justice and calm.  We prayed for the victims and their families.  We prayed for the rescuers.  We also prayed even for our enemies, as our Lord asked us to do.

            Now we wait and hope.  We wait for the next act in this unfolding drama.  We hope that the dogs of war will not be unleashed and that there will be no more acts of terror.  We also hope that no one will use these events to persecute innocent Moslems or Arabs.  So far, the Mosque in our community seems to be safe.

            Today, in our little town, just about everything is the same.  But, like I said, plans have changed.  Perhaps forever.