My early morning was spent at St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street, honoring the firefighters who lost 6 members, their chaplain and mentor and mine too, Father Mychal Judge. I stayed for the ringing of the bells...8:47 when the first plane hit Tower One. ..ding ding ding. 9:03 when the second plane hit Tower Two...ding ding ding. The proud crowd of New York City firefighters stood at attention in their Class A Blues. Then I headed down to Ground Zero for the reading of the names. When James Taylor sang "Close your Eyes," there wasn't a dry eye for miles. Paul Simon strummed his masterpiece "Sounds of Silence" to a meditative crowd. You could hear a pin drop among several thousand strong.
But love is fickle and passion doesn't always last for long. Americans and the world fell back into conflict and forgot their better selves. Violence, greed, hate and fear took over where love once stood.
Yet I saw something new today when I observed my fellow mourners. For the first time in ten years, I saw smiles on the faces of the firefighters and Franciscan priests who gathered on the steps of the midtown church. On West Street, throughout Tribeca and Battery Park, people were laughing and smiling. Police were watchful and attentive, but even they seemed lighter hearted. All around me, people jogged, shopped and talked--bustling with the pace of the city. Life to the fullest went on.
A memorial service in Point Lookout, New York where many FDNY members live, was labeled, "Building a Bridge from Mourning to Hope." That was the emotion I felt as I walked the busy streets of Manhattan: hope.
As one victim's mother said when she announced her son's name, "This experience has shown me that goodness doesn't just exist in the movies. In real life, there are people out there who will catch you when you fall."
In truth, catching each other when we fall is the best path out of our misery. All we really have is one another. Ten Years after that September day, I remember the dead and the living and how this tragic event brought America and the world a little closer. That does seem like a milestone to me.