Ministries around the Province observed the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks this week, vowing to never forget those who were lost. Friars and communities along the East Coast remembered those who were killed at the World Trade Center, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., with Masses, a walk, and prayer services.
In New York City, hundreds of people from both the United States and outside the country participated in the annual 9/11 Walk of Remembrance on Sept. 10. The walk – which traces the footsteps of Mychal Judge, OFM, who died while serving as a chaplain of the Fire Department of New York in 2001, when he traveled to lower Manhattan to care for the people at the World Trade Center – began with a rosary service and Mass at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street, across from the Engine 1, Ladder 24 firehouse.
“The 9/11 Walk of Remembrance was an excellent example of forgiveness and the power of love to help us transcend profound pain and unspeakable tragedy,” said Christian Seno, OFM, who attended the walk for the first time. “The families and friends who participated reaffirmed their loved ones’ sacrifice, that there really is “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). As we saw in the brave sacrifice of our own brother, Mychal Judge, and in the heroic life of Detective Steven McDonald, the greatest love involves the greatest sacrifice, but it is also lived out in everyday moments of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
The walk concluded at St. Peter’s Church near Ground Zero, where Mychal’s body was taken that Tuesday morning in 2001. This year’s event honored the memory of the walk’s co-founder, Steven McDonald, an NYPD detective befriended by Mychal following the shooting that left McDonald paralyzed. With Mychal’s help, McDonald forgave his attacker and became a public speaker, sharing his message of reconciliation and faith.
After Mychal’s death on Sept. 11, 2001, McDonald – with a friend — organized and led the Walk of Remembrance in honor of Mychal and other victims of the terrorist attacks. Photos and videos of this year’s event are posted on the 9/11 Walk of Remembrance Facebook page.
During the walk, Christopher Keenan, OFM, FDNY chaplain and Mychal’s successor, stopped at firehouses and police precincts along the way for prayer and reflection.
“Steven was the heart and soul, the spirit and the life of the walk,” Chris said in an article published in the NY Daily News. “In many ways, that will continue. We’ll miss him desperately. But now, he and his dearest friend Mychal are together and with us on the walk.”
Mychal, who was inducted this year into the Irish American Hall of Fame, was the first recorded victim of the Sept 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Before the walk, representatives of Mychal’s Message, an organization that promotes the work and ministry of the fallen friar, gave out new underwear and socks to guests on the 7 a.m. breadline outside St. Francis of Assisi on 31st Street. The “Blessed Bloomers” program began after Sept. 11, when volunteers handed out socks to people lining up for breakfast and a bag lunch on the more than 80-year-old St. Francis Breadline. Members of the organization travel to New York every year from Pennsylvania and other areas on this date to distribute Blessed Bloomers bundles, containing one undershirt, two pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks, two mints and a prayer card.
In New Jersey, St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes, prayed – as many ministries around the Province did – during a memorial Mass on Sept. 10 for all those who lost their lives on Sept. 11. They also expressed gratitude to the city’s public servants and the daily service they provide to the community.
Nearby, Daniel Grigassy, OFM, pastor of St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson, celebrated a memorial Mass for those who died on Sept. 11. The Knights of Columbus Council, along with the parish’s Secular Franciscans, joined him for a prayer service following the Mass at Mychal Judge’s grave in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Totowa.
“Teenagers and young people may have no memory of the horrors of that day,” said Daniel. “Our ritual today helps us keep our promise to “never forget!”
The St. Bonaventure University community in Western New York held a prayer service to honor those killed in the 2001 attacks. The community remembered Mychal, along with two other graduates, Rob Peraza and Amy O’Doherty, who perished that day. Francis Di Spigno, OFM, executive director of university ministries, led the campus prayer service at 11:30 p.m. at the university’s 9/11 Memorial.
In Boston, hundreds stopped by St. Anthony Shrine to remember those killed on Sept. 11. Outside the Church on Arch Street, a huge banner listed all victims’ names and a memorial was set up inside the church in memory of Mychal Judge. “It was a moving tribute to the fallen heroes and those who lost their life on this tragic day in American history,” said Julie Ogden, managing director at the Shrine. “People stopped by the Shrine throughout the day to pause and reflect. Even if they didn’t come into the Shrine, they could say a silent prayer in front of the banner out front.”
– Johann Cuervo is communications assistant at the Provincial Office.
- “Hero Cop Honored in First Walk of Remembrance Without Him” – Sept. 10, 2017, AMNew York
- “9/11 Walk of Remembrance to Honor Late Founder Steven McDonald” – Aug. 30, 2017, HNP Today
- “Steven McDonald, Paralyzed officer who Championed Forgiveness, Dies at 59” – Jan. 10, 2017, The New York Times
- “On Sept. 11 Anniversary, Communities Pray for Peace” – Sept. 21, 2016, HNP Today
- “Franciscan Influences: Learning by Example from Mychal Judge” – Sept. 2, 2016, HNP Today