By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Remembrances of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001 created a resurgence of peace and prayer as people in the diocese selected ways to reflect upon the one-year anniversary of the events. Throughout the state, businesses, churches and schools were asked to observe three moments of silence: at 8:46 a.m. in memory of American Airlines Flight 11 striking the North World Trade Tower; at 9:03 a.m. in memory of United Airlines Flight 175 hitting the South Tower, and at 9:50 a.m. and 10:29 a.m., the time each tower collapsed.
Although a year has passed, the tragedy has impacted people so intensely that where they were and how they heard about the attacks will be ingrained forever in their memories. The tragedy of 9-11 could hardly be forgotten as decisions regarding an impending attack on Iraq and heightened terrorist alerts placed the country at the highest security level. People still searching for comfort attended multiple Masses, vigils, peace-walks and lectures in hope of gaining insight as to how best honor the victims and heroes of the terrorist attacks.
7:00 a.m. – Binghamton
Emphasizing the need to maintain peace traditions in the time of war, Lee Griffith delivered a presentation entitled “A Peace-Making Remembrance of 9-11” at St. Patrick’s Church Hall in Binghamton at 7 a.m. Griffith, a former chaplain at Elmira College, currently works with a community mental health program in Elmira. Over a hundred people listened as he discussed America’s need to eliminate its proneness to war and violence and replace it with peaceful actions and attitudes. “We need to once again begin appealing to the peace traditions of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, as well as Christianity,” Griffith said. “Perhaps that is a difficult sell in times of war. Americans need to be concerned about becoming a peace-loving people.”
War has become a term all Americans are used to, Griffith added. “The U.S. has fallen into a view of war that is dualistic. There is now an incapacity to address an issue without war,” Griffith said. “Whether it’s a war on drugs, in the Persian Gulf, or on terrorism, the enemies must be identified and the enemies must be defeated. When a problem arises, America goes to war.”
Griffith stated that as the spending on militarism has increased in the last four years, the rules of just war established by Augustine of Hippo have been increasingly ignored.
“War is no longer being treated as a last resort. War can no longer, if it ever did, protect the lives of civilians,” Griffith said. “With this, the administration makes the case for restriction of civil liberties during the emergency. It’s the surrendering of rights and freedoms which may never be regained.”
Griffith pointed out his exasperation at seeing what he considered racial profiling at border checks, when a majority of stopped cars belonged to African-Americans and persons of Middle Eastern descent.
He advocated that citizens in America encourage their government to end the practice of trading arms, to turn from military intervention and to end the cycle of terrorism and counter-terrorism.
Griffith explained that his lecture was not just to clarify the actions of the past year, but to provide the audience with information to use to create a more peaceful country. “I want people to leave with a sense of empowerment. Too often we assume there’s nothing we can do in countering terrorism,” Griffith said. “We can make witness for peace. People of faith have the resources we need to be free for peace.” After the breakfast lecture, the audience was asked to walk to the Peace Park at Confluence Point to participate in a moment of silence and some personal reflections of the tragedy.
12:10 p.m. — Syracuse
The 12:10 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Sept. 11 was not the typical weekday Mass attended by a few dozen people. This particular Mass filled the church. It was a year ago to the day that the bishops’ had gathered with the people on the terrible day of the tragedy that touched so many peoples’ lives. It seemed everyone wanted to be at church that day. Apparently the same held true for the first anniversary of the terrorist bombings.
There were people of all ages in attendance at the Mass which was celebrated by Bishop James Moynihan. The procession before the Mass was made up of people representing various causes that attest to non-violence. The Respect Life Office, the Office of Black Catholic Ministry, a banner reading, “Stop the Killing in Iraq” and one calling for the closing of the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, Ga. were carried down the center aisle of the church drawing attention to the violence that continues after the attacks. The bishop was joined at the altar by Bishop Thomas Costello and a few other clergy as well.
Bishop Moynihan said everyone’s life had been changed forever by the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The prayer of St. Francis was read aloud and patriotic songs were part of the Mass. Families met downtown to attend together. There was one towheaded little boy crawling around the tile floor in the back of the church, his mother and grandfather watching over him. The hope he represented was continued as the bishop’s homily focused on love and Jesus’ words to his apostles, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He said that absence from those who are loved is difficult for everyone.
“We have said goodbye to friends who were moving to other places. We send young people off to college, and the house feels just a little bit empty without them. To be away from those we love is indeed like ‘self from self, a cruel banishment,’” Bishop Moynihan said.
He spoke of how Jesus tried to prepare the disciples when it was time for him to part from his friends.
“On the night before he died, Jesus said, ‘My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me. But where I am going, you cannot come,’” the bishop said. “In the few years they had been together they had learned to love each other dearly. They could hardly stand the thought of being torn apart.”
Jesus’ advice to them was to love each other all the more after He was gone, the bishop said. And, that, he echoed, is what the people should do now. “Love, I think, is like the muscles of our bodies. It needs to be exercised. If we do not put it to practical use, it will wither, it will atrophy.”
“The families of the victims will continue to miss them dearly, and non one will ever take their place. But while they are apart, those who remain will continue to love one another just as Jesus has instructed us. That will help to compensate in some measure for the loved ones that have been lost,” Bishop Moynihan said. In the end, the bishop reminded those gathered that all are blessed in God’s eyes and that “we are all citizens of another world and of another country that cannot be bought, cannot be damaged, or touched, but one which will last forever.”
The collection from the Mass totaled $911.
Kirk Besures helps his daughter Morgan Emily Besures , age 4, hold lighted candles during the 9-11 Ecumenical Prayer Service held in Washington Park, City of Oswego on September 11. Both are members of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish.
4:20 p.m. — Utica
A prayerful mood enveloped St. Joseph/St. Patrick Church in Utica on Sept. 11, on the first anniversary of the terror attacks on New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. Beginning at 6 a.m., parishioners and travelers from across the Eastern Region joined in Eucharistic adoration. Over 100 people participated in adoration into the late afternoon, before the 4:20 p.m. Mass was celebrated.
Ron LaBuz, worship coordinator at St. Joseph/St. Patrick Church, worked with members Barb Finnegan, Phyllis Tarcz, Rose LaBuz, and John Goodman to put together the event. He said the church was the only one in the area to offer adoration as a part of the Sept. 11 anniversary events.
“We wanted to offer adoration for our parishioners and others who attend,” LaBuz said. “We had the Liturgy of the Hours and our Mother Marianne Prayer Group recited the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the rosary. We gave people the opportunity to come, and lay their sorrows and anguish at the feet of Christ. When you leave it with Him, you will be totally refreshed.”
Father Richard Dellos, pastor of St. Joseph/St. Patrick Church and celebrant at the anniversary Mass, said prayer is a vital component of commemorating the day.
“Everything comes through God. Our efforts are in vain unless we pray. Prayer is a source of every good work,” Father Dellos explained. “Over the last few months, with all that has happened here and in our country, prayer has got us through.” The altar was covered with red, white and blue candles, a vivid reminder of those lost last year in the tragedy. As the Mass began, the words of the opening hymn were very appropriate for the moment: Be Not Afraid. Members of the Utica Fire and Police Departments led a procession into the church. Father Dellos recognized the dedication of the public servants to the greater good of society.
“One year ago today, several thousand of our fellow citizens died as a result of terrorist attacks on our country. As terrible as those moments were for all of us and in the midst of such horrendous loss of life, we witnessed extraordinary expressions of faith, courage, and compassion. … Through prayer, we recommit ourselves to the highest ideals of our religion and our country,” Father Dellos said in the opening prayer. “We remember those courageous individuals who gave their lives unselfishly in service of others. … As Catholics, we draw upon our faith to make this anniversary a time to remember, a time to deepen our commitment to discipleship, and a time to strengthen our active participation in efforts to build a more just and peaceful world.”
In his homily, Father Dellos talked about how each person is blessed by God. Every person is a son or daughter, and the Holy Spirit comes upon everyone to give them the strength to live their lives, he said. Sometimes, one is faced with tough decisions, even when it comes to forgiveness.
“We must love our enemies. We must be peacemakers. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be children of God.’
How do we make peace?” Father Dellos said. “Vengeance belongs to God. Power or weapons are not the answer.”
On a day that will be remembered for death and destruction, Father Dellos said people should look forward and not allow the terrorists to influence the American way of life.
“Our hope is in the Lord. We need to rely on him. On this day, we pray for those who have died. But we pray for the survivors and our country. Prayer heals us and binds up our wounds. Every son and daughter depends on their parents. We are totally dependent on God,” Father Dellos said. “We must go forward with a sense of hope. The stage is set for us to trust in God in a new way. Today is a day of hope, a day of victory.”
LaBuz said the event was successful and even better than expected. “We had really good attendance. It was like a regular Sunday Mass,” LaBuz said.
Some members of the parish compiled a display of items relating to Sept. 11. Included in the display was a construction hat with a flag imprinted on it. LaBuz said the company he works for, Northern Safety in Utica, made the hat especially for Vice President Dick Cheney before he went to Ground Zero. LaBuz presented a duplicate of the hat to Father Dellos this year.
6:45 p.m. — Oswego
Let us not forget” was the theme of the memorial Mass at St. Stephen’s Church on the west side of Oswego. The little church was filled with people on the evening of Sept. 11. There was red, white and blue on the ribbons on the candle lights in the windows and a banner behind the altar was equally patriotic. Local officials including the mayor and many from the police department and fire department were there as well. Father Edmund Wolak, the church’s pastor, was joined at the altar by a newly-arrived priest from Poland, Father Gregory Goluzniak. Father Wolak said that those gathered were seeking Jesus’ pardon, his peace and his healing power. His homily was one with a hope-filled message reminding people that the work of the terrorists was not God’s work, but the devil’s work. “I don’t think words can describe or put to understanding the evil that was done last year. The first reading tonight tells us how short is our life, life is fragile. The Gospel tells us we should rejoice when someone does wrong to us,” Father Wolak said.
Father Wolak said that firefighters do not stop to think of who they are saving when they rush into burning buildings, much like God doesn’t stop to think if a person is Jewish, Christian or Muslim — we are all the same and we all need help, he said. “We must try to know the other person as Jesus knows us. We have to do this every day, every minute because we truly do not know when Jesus will call us from this life. We know too well our life may end today and we may not see someone tomorrow,” Father Wolak said.
The music and the responsorial psalm were reminders of God’s call to peace. The choir sang and was accompanied by flute and organ. Many who attended the Mass made their way to Washington Park on the east side of the city afterwards for a community-wide prayer service. Father Wolak led the opening prayer of that event as well. The ecumenical service featured prayers for civic leaders including the police and sheriff departments which was lead by Father James Cesta, pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Oswego. A trio lead the musical portions of the night time service and a man playing bagpipes played as members from the fire department and other organizations processed into the outdoor service. There were approximately 800 people gathered on the hillside for the service. Clearly, the mood of the Mass and the gathering after was that despite the terrible circumstances of the anniversary of Sept. 11, there is hope that peace can reign and that God’s message to humanity through His Son is one of respect and non-violence.