An angel in the ashes

An angel in the ashes
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Photo submitted

Notre Dame students reflect on 9/11

While Sept. 11, 2001 will always be remembered as a tragic day in U.S. history, it will also be remembered as a date that produced extraordinary heroism. Recently, staff members at Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in Utica were faced with a dilemma. They knew that a proper memorial had to be recognized on its fifth anniversary, Monday, Sept. 11. That same date, however, had to be used to initiate the new school year.

“Basically we were trying to combine 9/11 with the new school year,” said Mike Zasa, who developed the program with Carol Troy. “We were combining the sadness of remembrance with the spirit of hope.” The Mass was held at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, which is located directly across the street from Notre Dame. For the occasion, Troy set up three panels bearing photographs from newspaper clippings taken around 9/11. Troy’s son, Larry Troy, a New York City firefighter, took other photographs. The latter were shot at or near Ground Zero.

Also on the altar were eight candles which certain seniors at the school lit after a reading was proclaimed. The elements of the reading included eight remembrances. Among them were remembrances for the passengers of American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175; the workers in the World Trade Center; and the firefighters, policemen and rescue workers who died trying to save others.

The altar also included remembrances for the passengers of American Airlines Flight 77, which was flown into the Pentagon; the military and civilian personnel working in the Pentagon during the crash; the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania; those who have died in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq; and the “family, faculty and friends of the Notre Dame community who have returned home this past year.”

Troy noted that the seniors who were lighting the candles were seventh-graders when 9/11 occurred and, therefore, will be the last to have witnessed the attack on the World Trade Center via television while at Notre Dame. She said that the students “were very reverent and very quiet,” during the liturgy. The liturgy concluded with a communion meditation in which the tragedy united people as one color, one class, one gender, one faith, one language and one body. The final words of the meditation were “As we retell with pride of the sacrifice of heroes, we become one people.”

Troy noted that the meditation seemed to have a powerful impact on the students. “The communion meditation really did touch them,” she said. Our Lady of the Rosary pastor, Father Felix Colosimo, delivered the homily and was faced with the challenge of eliciting both remembrance and optimism from the students. “It was about hope,” he said. “Even though we begin this year in sorrow, reflecting on the event, and our hearts go out to those who have died and their families, our hearts are filled with hope.” Knowing that many students were excited about the new school year, he focused portions of his homily on the future.

“We want this year to the best year for you, Notre Dame, and for us, Our Lady of the Rosary,” he told the students. Maintaining an air of solemnity, Father Colosimo attempted to keep the Mass from becoming depressing. “I didn’t want it to be a downer for the kids,” he said. “It’s their first day of school and they’re all excited.”

For inspiration, Father Colosimo looked to the heroic example of the firefighters and police officers, those who could be seen running toward the World Trade Center as it burned, while so many others ran in the opposite direction. “We have a legacy to fulfill in them,” he said. “They were courageous enough to die for us. Now we have to be courageous enough to live for them. They lift us to a legacy of life, not death. We have to make choices that they can be proud of.”

The centerpiece of the altar display was an angel Larry Troy recovered from the ruins of the World Trade Center. In the wake of the 9/11 attack, he worked every day for four months whether he was at Ground Zero, an understaffed firehouse or attending a funeral. Carol Troy had asked her son to find some memento from the event for the students at Notre Dame. Her son explained, however, that nothing remained in the wreckage, just soot. The largest object Larry Troy had seen was no larger than a dime.

The very next day, however, he located the angel. Its current home is in Troy’s office, but she hopes to have it displayed prominently somewhere on the school grounds in the near future.

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