The Catholic University of America

9/11 10th Anniversary Mass
John Garvey, President of The Catholic University of America
Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center
Sept. 11, 2011

All over the country people are remembering the events of 9/11 this weekend. Many continue to mourn the loss of brothers, sisters, parents, friends. Our law school lost a professor. Her name was Karen Kincaid. Our alumni lost siblings and parents. One undergraduate, Brian Haran, lost his dad. Two weeks after 9/11, 50 members of Catholic University’s community boarded a bus to attend Brian’s dad’s funeral in East Rockaway, New York.

Since the tragedy of 9/11, we’ve mourned as a community. We’ve had vigils on campus each year. We read the names of the victims; this year we have them on a banner. Yesterday, we had a day of service in remembrance of the tragic loss of life.

Others did the same today. Some tributes took the form of service, others of art, architecture, music, religious services. One of the tributes is near the site of the attack in New York City. It is the work of a design firm called Snøhetta, and an Estonian Orthodox composer named Arvo Pärt. The exhibit involves a tour of five “still spots,” specific locations in the city where the landscape and sounds encourage a sense of silence and reflection.

Arvo Pärt has thought a lot about the relationship of silence and sound. Much of his work draws from Gregorian chant, the music monks sing when they break their silence to pray. When the composer Benjamin Britten died, Pärt wrote one of his best known works, Cantus in Memoriam, as a tribute. The two men had never met. But the music he wrote for the occasion is intensely personal. A period of silence begins and ends the piece. It highlights Pärt’s theme: we come out of silence when we are born, and we leave this earth in silence. “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return . . .” Genesis tells us.

Pärt’s silences are intended to highlight something else as well: the music that comes in between them. Silence helps us appreciate how beautiful sound is. Remembering those we have lost reminds us that life is precious, theirs and ours.

Many people have tried to tell the “meaning of 9/11” in the past 10 years. Politicians have made platforms on it. Religious leaders have written books. Pundits regularly tell us we live in a “post- 9/11” world. There is some truth in all this. But I think what we should take from this anniversary of 9/11 is this. We will all face the silence that came too early for those who died on that day. You have the time, now, that they do not. Honor the deaths of those we lost on 9/11. Live your lives well.