Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

September 12, 2007


“Consider, O nation, those that are dead, slain in your high places. …Be desolate, for there was destroyed the shield of the valiant. For they were swifter than eagles, stronger than lions. … How are the valiant fallen!” 2 Samuel 1: 21-25.

Yesterday, the sixth anniversary of 9/11, that day of infamy, was observed with ceremony and the tears of the bereaved. By coincidence, on the first 9/11, I was scheduled as a retiree to offer the noonday Mass at St. Thomas More’s. The news of the collapse of the twin towers had quickly spread. The church was filled to capacity. The mood was prayerful, the listeners attentive to the readings, especially about the desolation from the fall of the valiant on the high places.

In the weeks that followed, interfaith memorial ceremonies were held in prominent churches. Then, the funerals of the few whose dead bodies could be identified. Almost three thousand civilians, 343 firefighters, 75 NYPD and Port Authority Police were the victims, but also to be counted are the bereaved: sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, spouses. With hope lost of identifying more of the dead, funerals continued with a photo of the deceased in the place of the coffin, and frequently, with a firefighters’ helmet or police headgear.

Statistics were personalized by the remembrances of Epiphany parishioners lost – Sean Lugano and NYFD firefighter Bobby Foti; 13 Precinct’s Bobby Fazio and Moira Smith and Emergency Service Truck One’s Brian McDonnell, both units across the street from my former Epiphany parish. A wedding that I was scheduled to perform in November lost David Winton, the intended groom. Visits to the Truck One squad room, saw them exhausted and begrimed with soot and ashes as they returned from ground zero to their quarters, where they lived around the clock.

Memorable was a gathering of the NY Press Photographers Association at a West Side bar to deal with the trauma they had experienced from what they saw and photographed on that day. Todd Maisel, a friend, had asked me to speak and offer a prayer. Todd, who is Jewish, jumped up on a table top and gave an impassioned speech. Like an Old Testament prophet, he spoke of an Old Testament time, a New Testament time, and a Newest Testament time, when our lies have changed and we live with a new awareness of evil but, more importantly, with affection, respect, and love that has brought people together in a remarkable new way.

Not to be forgotten is Arlene Harrison, head of the Gramercy Park Block Association. Arlene organized a phalanx of neighborhood women, who staffed and prepared hot meals around the clock at the 13th Precinct for many weeks for the exhausted workers as they returned from ground zero.

How are the valiant fallen! But how have the new valiant come forth!


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