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Catholics recall 9/11 heroism, unity

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Though many of the participants at Saturday’s service weren't yet alive on Sept. 11, 2001, as they gathered to honor the 20th anniversary they were emphatic that the heroes and lessons can not be forgotten. 

“Every American should remember 9/11,”  William Fallon, a seventh-grader at Our Lady of Hope School in Potomac Falls and a member of the Civil Air Patrol, told the crowd gathered outside the school’s front doors. 

The Civil Air Patrol began in Dec. 1941, shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor, as a way for civilians to help with national defense. Today, its members help mainly with humanitarian missions, including recent operations in Alabama to help with Hurricane Ida recovery.

“We would not be the United States of America without those who fought for that name,” Fallon said, adding that some of the symbols of America’s freedom were destroyed on the day. 

Aidan McIntosh, a member of Boy Scouts Troop 572 and a 2021 graduate of Our Lady of Hope, called the opportunity to be a part of the day “monumental.” His troop raised the flag, and then lowered it to half-staff, for the commemoration.

“It’s pretty monumental that we can take part and remember something that happened before we were born. It’s our generational place to respect the sacrifice of those who came before us,”  McIntosh said.

Jeanne Canavan, principal, said she organized the event as a way to include the students as well as educate them.

“We are teaching them patriotism and love of our country,” she said of the event. “It seems our culture is shifting away from that … we want to teach our children that patriotism is a Christian value.”

During the hourlong ceremony, Fallon, Canavan and others spoke to honor not only the fallen but also numerous veterans from various wars in attendance.


Dick Black, a former state senator who attends Our Lady of Hope Church, said so many of his fellow parishioners were affected in different ways, big and small.  Byron Andrews, a member of the Sterling Volunteer Fire and Rescue who was working as a part of Alexandria Rescue Squad Sept. 11, recalled how “average citizens became heroes.”

“It wasn’t about Arlington or Alexandria. It was really about the entire region coming together,” he said, adding that about 300 volunteers from the Sterling area worked that day, and in the days that followed. 

“No one called, they just came in,” he said.

While the students could not share similar stories from 9/11, their presence and performances crystallized the significance of the memorial. The school’s choir led the national anthem and sang “Amazing Grace.” And students from the Linton Hall School in Bristow Drum and Fife Corp played “Taps”, as well as other patriotic music to close out the ceremony. 

“It was an honor to play,” said Olivia Heinle, a fifth-grader at Linton Hall.  “It was really exciting to see all of the people and to play for what has happened.”

‘To serve without counting the cost’

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated the Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice in Remembrance of the Twentieth Anniversary of September 11, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington Sept. 11. 

He celebrated the Mass for Military and First Responders at St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax Sept. 12.

Recalling the charity and generosity that existed in the days and weeks after 9/11, Bishop Burbidge said he hoped to see it again but cautioned it would only happen if we were truly one nation, under God.

“Pray God we will one day see such goodness again thriving,” Bishop Burbidge said at the cathedral.

“Remember how people put aside their differences, political parties, and divides, put aside anything that separated us? It seemed those things didn’t matter.  What mattered was we were brothers and sisters. We were at a moment in time where we needed to bring each other consolation and comfort and hope.  And we found so many ways to do that. To be instruments of peace. The peace that our world needs now more than ever.”

At the sixth annual Mass at St. Leo, he utilized the Gospel reading in which Christ exhorts his disciples and followers to “deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” to recall those who sacrificed their lives Sept. 11 and those putting themselves out there every day in 2021. 

“Providentially, today Jesus talks about discipleship. And he talks about the qualities necessary for a disciple. And actually, many of those qualities are what we see so often in first responders and those who serve in the military, the willingness to put the needs of others before their own. The willingness to stay strong and steadfast and courageous in the midst of trials and sufferings and to serve without counting the cost,” he said.

“My dear friends, that is what it means to be a disciple. That is what it means to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.”

A patriotic rosary

Members of Knights of Columbus Potomac Assembly #2044 gathered Sept. 11 at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Alexandria in the morning to pay homage to the 184 people who died at the Pentagon 20 years ago, as well as recite a Patriotic Rosary for the country on the anniversary. 

Rich Dunbar, the assembly’s faithful navigator, said the group meets monthly to say the rosary and decided this month it was fitting to recall the events of 2001. 

“Every anniversary is significant but this is 20 years,” said Dunbar. “It seems sometimes this is fading from people’s memory and we needed to do something to keep it in our memories.”

Various Knights took turns reading all the names, one by one, which were each followed by a single toll of the church bells. 

Members then took turns leading the Patriotic Rosary. The special rosary is infused with readings from various leaders in American history, including George Washington and John Adams. There are also patriotic hymns, including “My Country Tis of Thee” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which are sung in their entirety as part of the prayers. Each of the 50 Hail Mary’s said throughout the rosary was dedicated to a specific state. 

“We were doing something anyway so it felt right to honor the day,” said Dunbar.

Shaffrey is a freelancer in Alexandria.




© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021