Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/11: Thoughts & Reflections

Thoughts & Reflections
I just got back from the Freshman Welcoming Mass at Bishop Guertin High School.  At 9 AM!  Nice and early like in the old days, eh?  The purpose of blessing the new year for our new students was somewhat super-ceded by our school’s deep connection to the tragedy.  Brother Mark opened with remarks recalling how he was going in to a meeting in New York City that day, but they stopped the subways and had them go back and get out at Brooklyn.  He met and walked with several total strangers, stangers sharing a deep solidarity.

The celebrant, Brother Paul, spoke at length about the Ogonowski girls.  Their father was the pilot of the first plane and two of the girls were attending our school at the time; one more daughter came through the school later.  Brother Paul had some marvelous very recent quotes from the girls that show how well they have coped with this.  Their father was most remarkable for being a devout man who put his faith in action.  His contributions made the building of his parish in Dracut possible.  He gave land to victims of the Cambodian genocide.  He sacrificed to send his girls to a place like Bishop Guertin High School.  Their recent quotes spoke glowingly of what their father meant to them, how close he feels to them on their farm, and how Bishop Guertin gave them a good foundation to support them in the bad times.
        Caroline with a picture of her dad       John Ogonowski on the family farm

The morning of September 11, 2001, I was teaching New Testament to some Sophomores, when one of the teachers yelled over to turn the TV on.  We watched in horror as the second plane came in.  Eventually, the administration asked us to turn all TV’s off.  It turned out they had a very good reason.  I went out in the hallway during the next period and happened to be there as they told the girls about their father.  It was awful pain.  I hope I never hear or see anything like that again.  Nobody should.  We later found out several more direct and indirect connections between Bishop Guertin and the tragedy.  We were hit hard.  Monday we are going to stop several times to pray and think about this.
Our Living Waters alumnus, Chuck Trella, also has quite a connection to this.  He really shouldn’t be alive.  He was working for the company in the World Trade Center that was hit hardest by the destruction.  Chuck’s car strangely didn’t work that day, so he car pooled. Consequently, he was late enough to avoid the crash, but he lost friends, of course.  He has lived to see his wonderful family grow and thrive.
I just watched the “Flight 93” movie again last night.  God’s fingerprints of grace and redemption in a terrible situation were all over so many actions of that day.  The fact that so many on that flight were able to act so selflessly, not out of bitterness or revenge, but out of true love for others, is comforting.  Here is an excerpt from the Newsweek article about Todd Beamer:
Beamer…told [GTE} supervisor Lisa Jefferson about the hijacking and that the passengers were planning to jump the terrorists. And then he asked her to pray with him…He began to recite the [Lord’s Prayer], and Jefferson joined him: ‘Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.’ ” As they finished, Beamer added, “JESUS, HELP ME!”… And then, Beamer and his fellow passengers prayed a prayer that has comforted millions down through the centuries… in a time of great anguish: ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want . . Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.’ And then the famous last words, uttered naturally off of his confidence in his preceding (and unreported by the media) plea: “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll!”
We prayed the Our Father together at Mass today with the same determination to do an excellent job this day and this year.  If life is worth dying for, it’s worth living for, too.  Beamer’s advice is just as poignant and urgent this September 11th as it was on that one.  Let’s roll!