It seems cliché to blog about this today, but I can’t stop thinking about being an 18 year old sophomore at Franciscan University of Steubenville, sitting in my 9:00 a.m. Survey of Physical Science class when a student raised his hand and said he had heard that there had been some plane crash in New York, and to include that in the typical prayers our professor began each class with. By the time we were dismissed at 10:30, word had gradually spread that there was a serious situation in New York and DC (and it had been gradual… life without cell phones or wireless internet meant you actually had time to process information) because some of our classmates with family in the area were frantic about not being able to reach them.
My next class was with Sister M. Johanna and while we were beginning to realize that something serious had happened, no one in their right mind skips her class. I remember some students talking, some quietly sobbing, worried about their families that they were unable to reach that morning.
Sister M. Johanna walked in and said she wasn’t quite sure what to do—but first we were going to pray a rosary. When we finished praying, I remember her saying something to the effect of, that while she had thought about canceling class, she wanted us to understand that this would be part of our vocation as Catechists—that we would encounter many crisis if we chose to work for the Church, and that our responsibility at that moment was to study so that we could be better equipped to handle whatever challenges were in store for the Church. We could leave if we felt that we had to, but this was how we could best respond. In fact it was the only way we could respond at that moment.
Walking across campus that afternoon, Adoration and confession had been set up on the lawn of the JC Williams Center—the center of campus. I remember turning the corner with a friend and seeing the monstrance on the lawn, classmates kneeling around in silent prayer and my friend saying, “I love this place”. She was right. While the world was in chaos, Christ reigned on campus that day and we were able to dwell not on the uncertainty of the future but His presence to us then and there.
These two moments stand out in my mind from 9/11/2001. First, my professor telling us, not callously but with gravity that our responsibility as students and future catechists that morning was to pray and then continue to study so that we could help people understand the mess that was unfolding that very morning. Second, that encountering Christ in the Eucharist—the source and summit of our faith—was the answer in a moment when no one seemed to know what the right thing was to do or say.
They say that 9/11 is a day that shaped the millennials, causing us to realize that our world was no longer safe, that we would enter adulthood with a lot of uncertainty. My experiences were definitive, but it was in a way that left me knowing that in the midst of fear and uncertainty, Christ is consistent and present.
Offering prayers for all affected by 9/11 today.