Two numbers that say more than most people have ever wanted to hear. The horror of the deadliest terror attack in world history still haunts our collective memory. But did you know that not everyone who died on 9-11 lost their lives.
I know that’s a statement that bears explaining, and please rest assured that I’m not going to speculate about the eternal outcome of anyone. Hang in there with me for a few minutes and I’ll tell you about some unsung heroes whose names you may never have heard, but they are names that some people will never forget. They died, but they didn’t lose their lives.
Before I explain, let me begin by welcoming you to “Mornings with Bishop Robert” — thanks for joining me on this day of remembrance. I asking you to share this message of heroism and hope with everyone you know.
During the attacks of September 11, there were 2,544 innocent civilians killed by the four coordinated acts of terrorism. Office workers, port authority employees, janitors and security officers; altogether 128 different companies and organizations reported fatalities. Citizens from 115 different nations were killed in the attack.
Today’s verse says THE LORD IS CLOSE TO THE BROKENHEARTED AND SAVES THOSE WHO ARE CRUSHED IN SPIRIT
Today many people will be brokenhearted as we recall the horrific events of 9-11.
Among them will be the mother of a 24-year-old equities trader Welles Crowther, who was working on the 104th floor when the plane hit the South Tower. The man who had been a volunteer firefighter in his teens tied a red bandanna around his face as a makeshift mask and became a hero. He helped the injured, carrying one woman down 15 flights of stairs and passing her off to a policeman. He directed survivors in the sky lobby to the stairway in a commanding voice and ordered, “Everyone who can stand, stand now! Go down the stairs, and if you can help others, do so.” Untold numbers of strangers are alive today because of “the man in the red bandana.” Before he began, Crowther called his mother and calmly left a voicemail telling her, “Mom, this is Welles. I want you to know that I’m ok.” Crowther’s body was recovered alongside firefighters in a stairwell, where he had been heading back up the tower with the “Jaws of Life” rescue tool. Hear me clearly when I tell you that Welles Crowther did NOT lose his life. He GAVE it, and the difference is profound.
Retired Army Colonel Rick Rescorla was working as the head of Corporate Security for Morgan Stanley. When the plane hit the first tower, the NY Port Authority ordered Recola to keep his employees at their desks. I can’t repeat his reply in this forum, but let’s just just say that the strong vocabulary he developed as a soldier was put to extensive and targeted use. He had been well aware of the World Trade Center’s security weaknesses on account of his extensive military skills, and had insisted that Morgan Stanley employees practice emergency drills for years. As a result, over 2,700 employees and visitors were outside the building when the second plane hit their tower. Col. Rescorla called his wife as he headed back into the building. “Stop crying,” he told her. “I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier. You made my life.” He was last seen on the 10th floor of the South Tower as he headed up the stairs. His body was never found. But make no mistake – Col. Rescorla didn’t LOSE his life either.
To all the wives, children and parents of those who GAVE their lives, remember that THE LORD IS CLOSE TO THE BROKENHEARTED AND SAVES THOSE WHO ARE CRUSHED IN SPIRIT.
Remember also that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for their friend.
I wish I had time to tell you all about Maj. Heather Penney and Col. Marc Sasseville who jumped into their F-16’s to intercept the hijacked aircraft heading towards Washington. With a Boeing 757 speeding towards the nation’s capital there was no time for pre-flight checklists; in fact, there was no time to arm the aircraft. They scrambled to intercept United 93 on a kamikaze mission, intending to ram their F-16’s into the cockpit of the hijacked plane. Though the passengers on United 93 ultimately made their suicide mission unnecessary by forcing the plane into a Pennsylvania field 20 minutes from its intended target, in a very real sense these pilots GAVE their lives as well. I don’t have the time to tell you about two recently discharged US Marines who donned their uniforms and immediately joined the search for survivors in the rubble. Or the flight attendants who called in descriptive and identifying information from the air-phones of their aircraft. All in all, 433 first responders – firefighters, police officers, EMTs and others – GAVE their lives; and thousands were saved.
In New York City today stand two 1-acre pools recessed into the ground precisely where the North and South Towers once stood. Entitled “Reflecting Absence” they are intended to symbolize the missing – both the people and the buildings. Every name of every person who died is inscribed around the walls of those two pools. Their names are not lost.
Today, as we remember those who GAVE their lives as well as those who lost them, let’s remember that THE LORD IS CLOSE TO THE BROKENHEARTED AND SAVES THOSE WHO ARE CRUSHED IN SPIRIT. He understands their pain. He, too, GAVE His life so that others might live.