Pausing to reflect on the effects of 9/11 - Catholic Courier

Pausing to reflect on the effects of 9/11

Like most Americans who experienced 9/11, I can remember the events as if they just happened.

As I was leaving the rectory that day, our housekeeper motioned me to the television set. As the first of the twin towers exploded, I thought of my days as a fireman and wondered how the people on the top floors would survive.

And then the second tower got hit, and shortly later when the Pentagon was hit, I realized that the United States itself was under attack.

Across the street, the Hart Senate Building and other senate buildings were evacuating. Not all of the people rushed off of Capitol Hill. Many came to our 12:10 p.m. Mass.

After Mass, the Hill went dead silent. The police, who were a second community to me, and who more often than not acted as tour guides, went into body armor and carried high-powered rifles. I cried, seeing them so out of character.

As night came, so did eeriness like none I had ever experienced. The streets to the U.S. Capitol were blocked with whatever vehicles were available: garbage trucks, buses and police cars. Flaming-red flares giving off the odor of sulfur dotted all of the main intersections.

As I walked around the Supreme Court next to the Capitol, police officers with whom I loved to chat were deadly silent, not wanting to talk with anyone. Some of their expressions reflected disgust, disbelief and sorrow, while others were just blank.

It was at that moment that I looked up at the U.S. Capitol and saw the light lit in its dome. It was signaling that Congress was in session.

Seeing it, I thought to myself, "They missed the most important symbol of the American spirit, Liberty atop the Capitol!"

And then there was a glimmer of joy in knowing that we had not been stopped and were regrouping.

Our spirit had been rocked but not broken!

Because of 9/11, many innocent American lives were lost, and, after it, countless others innocent and not so innocent around the world have been lost.

At this moment, the spirit of terrorism triggered by 9/11 has spawned a new wave of revenge, retaliation, reverse terrorism, heartlessness, profiling and hyper protectionism.

On this 10-year anniversary, we would do well to examine these depressing spirits in the light of our American spirit that was founded on Judeo-Christian ideals.

In 2001, we regrouped and sustained a strong spirit in the midst of a horrific catastrophe. And today, there still exists a need to once again regroup and strengthen our spirit against those things that can tarnish, darken and make it fearsome.

Father Hemrick is a columnist for Catholic News Service.

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