Twenty years ago, America’s landscape was forever changed when four planes were hijacked and used as weapons of mass destruction against innocent people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. Nineteen terrorists killed nearly 3,000 victims that sunny September morning, but the memory of those lost was poignantly remembered at St. Mary’s in Fairfield and St. Joseph’s in York.
On what seems like perfect ground and setting, several years ago Anthony Venzin built a lasting memorial to that fateful day with his Eagle Scout project that features a beautiful plaza area that graces the western slope of the parish grounds as you overlook the tranquil ridges of the Carroll Valley. It is a powerful place to pray, reflect and honor the heroic actions of so many on that tragic day – a day whose images will forever be seared into our minds.
Marking the 20th anniversary this year, a solemn ceremony was held. Bishop Ronald Gainer gave the opening prayer and benediction at the Remembrance ceremony at the plaza that featured stirring renditions of the Star Spangled Banner, Amazing Grace and Proud to be an American by the Fairfield High School choir and St. Mary’s Parish choir. Of the some 350 who attended there were many whose eyes were moist from the emotions this day so earnestly brings.
Various local dignitaries and politicians spoke to the importance of remembering those who died in the attacks and to the families who still bore the loss and terror of losing loved ones. And for those who were not yet born, former town mayor Bob Stanley read a detailed historical accounting of the timetable of the attacks to note the devious plot that befell Americans 20 years ago.
Parishioners at St. Joseph remembered those who died that fateful day 20 years ago through their annual Blue Mass. This Mass, in addition to remembering the 9/11 anniversary, also honors all first responders. Medical personal, police and fire personal all received a special blessing from Fr. Steve Fernandes, OFM, Cap, pastor.
During his homily, Fr. Fernandes said that after that September day in 2001, we pledged to never forget the events of that day and we haven’t. But we have more work to do in bringing our communities together and that the men and women keeping our communities safe, and responding to emergency situations, are heroes.
The Blue Mass dates back to 1934 when the first Mass was celebrated in Washington D.C. More than 1,000 police and firemen, dressed in their blue uniforms, attended that Mass. This Mass annually honors and recognizes the sacrifice of police, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical crews, all members of the public safety community and those who have given their lives in service to their communities. The Mass at St. Joseph’s is coordinated annual through the support of Knights of Columbus Council 6353.
The events of September 11, 2001 will continue to live on. Indeed, we will never forget.
By Chris Heisey and Rachel Bryson, The Catholic Witness