The Catholic University Of America
Office of the President
Washington, D.C. 20064
September 9, 2002
Commemoration of September 11, 2001
Yesterday, while listening to some music, I was struck by the lyrics to an old, familiar song from the show “The Fantasticks”:
“Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh so mellow… Try to remember when life was so tender that no one wept except the willow.”
CUA students held a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks last fall.
These are days when all of us are remembering a “kind of September,” only one year ago. A September when our nation, indeed the whole world, wept. A September that our nation, indeed the whole world, will always remember. The fiery visual images of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the remains of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, are burned deeply into our national consciousness as Americans. This first anniversary, no doubt, will rekindle those images as they are replayed again and again on national television. Every citizen of our great country will always remember where he or she was on that September 11 morning one year ago. It is not enough, however, that we remember simply as individual citizens: We must remember together, as members of a national community that shared the wounds of that fateful day last year and that now bears the scars as the healing process continues.
Sharing grief, indeed sharing all the emotions that well up within us as we reflect upon the events of September 11, is part of that healing. Our hearts become less heavy when they experience the shared connection of community. Here at The Catholic University of America, our community will repeat its response of last September 11 by joining in prayer with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at the noon Mass in the Great Upper Church. Led by Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the USCCB, and joined by our chancellor, His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick and other Church leaders, we will gather in this magnificent church for a “National Commemoration” to prayerfully remember all the victims of the terrorist attacks and their family members, especially adjunct professor Karen Kincaid of our law school faculty and the relatives, friends, alumni/ae and benefactors of the CUA community who perished that day. You can pray along with us by watching EWTN, which will broadcast the Mass live.
As president of The Catholic University of America, I want to encourage each of you reading this message to reflect on ways in which you can personally make these days of remembrance more meaningful, for yourselves and others. I was gratified to learn that the CUA baseball team will be traveling to New York in late September to honor a firefighter who died in the World Trade Center and whose nephew and niece are CUA students. And I am grateful to the CUA Department of Drama for joining with its counterpart at Howard University to present a collaborative piece commemorating last year’s tragedy on September 11 and 12 at our respective campus theaters. I know that our Office of Campus Ministry will be active in creating opportunities for prayerful remembrance.
In the midst of these activities, safety and the protection of everyone on this campus — students as well as faculty and staff — remain my most important priority. This past week, I reviewed all the university’s emergency procedures with the members of CUA’s administration, especially those responsible for campus safety and student life, to ensure that every reasonable emergency preparation is in place. We continue to exercise caution and to take prudent measures to safeguard our campus in the “new world” that last September 11 created. And, yet, as a parent of one of our new freshmen told me a few weeks ago, “We cannot allow ourselves to be cowed by terrorists.” And we shall not be.
Evils born from hatred and misunderstanding gave rise to the deadly terrorist attacks upon our nation one year ago. In the meantime, other parts of the world have witnessed similar though less extensive acts of terror and loss of life. We must not respond in kind, with equal hatred and barbarism. As we continue to draw upon our own faith and the strength of our shared national spirit, as we try to remember the kind of September we experienced last year, let us lift up our hearts together and pray that our good and gracious God will help calm our fears, soothe our wounded hearts, give us his wisdom and unite us with courage — whatever our faith may be — in this “one nation, under God.”
May the good Lord keep us all in his watchful and loving care!
Very Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M.