Reflection on 20th anniversary of 9/11

Reflections on an anniversary.


Saturday, 11 September is the twentieth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York. We watched in disbelief as planes crashed into the two enormous towers and people jumped from windows in a vain attempt to avoid death. The commentators on the American news channels first thought that it might be a horrific accident due to perhaps to a technical fault or human error. Quickly, the shocking truth struck home – this was no accident but a deliberate evil act.

Two thousand, six hundred and six people died in New York alone on that day. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions have died since that September morning in places as diverse as Paris, Kabul, London, Madrid and Mosul. Lives cut short, families torn apart, hearts shattered.  The effects of 11 September 2001 continue to revibrate across our world as hope competes with despair. Where will it all end?

War and destruction have always formed part of our human story. Christ died a violent death. There are hundreds of wars underway in our world today. Most of them attract little or no attention from the world media. The conflicts that get noticed are mostly those where issues that impact on the wealthy countries are at stake. We depend on the media to tell us about what is going on in our world and they can be so very selective. Yet, whether is it is a victim of the drugs war in Mexico or of the conflict over gold and other minerals in the Congo the suffering, the pain, the bloodshed is real and is tragic.

I think most of us have the idea in our head that our world is a better place today than it was a hundred or two hundred years ago. Perhaps, in many ways it is, at least for some people. We have made unimagined progress in areas such as medicine, transport and communications.  Many people live longer and happier lives as a result. We are certainly good at science and technology.  How are we doing when it comes to comes to loving thy neighbour as thyself?

Our world is complex. Alongside our terrifying ability and willingness to kill and maim, there is also extraordinary idealism which finds expression in love and goodness.  There were other things going on in our world on 11 September 2001. We recently celebrated the funeral of Sr Ethel Normoyle in Lissycasey. She was a member of the Little Company of Mary who spend most of her adult life in South Africa working with and for the poor. In 1988 she established a school and a clinic under a tree. As time went by Sr Ethel’s practical faith and determination inspired others to help and the Missionvale Care Centre grew. Each year young students and other volunteers from Clare go to work in Missionvale. Sr Ethel and the people around her helped those burdened by AIDS and other illnesses, poverty, lack of educational opportunities to rise up. Sr Ethel had established a structure which ensures that this work will continue after her death.

There are different ways to respond to the problems and suffering that we see around us. The men of 11 September 2001 and of the events that flowed from that terrible day chose fury. Anger might seem attractive, but it only makes the problems worse, the suffering greater. Love is the better option. Christ choose love. Sr Ethel and those like her who draw their inspiration and strength from Christ take the long and often lonely road of love and care.  Love turns hearts of stone to flesh.

As the planes crashed into the twin towers and the whirlwind of terror was unleashed, I was celebrating a wedding in the Chapel of the Saints of Ireland in the Irish College in Rome.  Clashing symbols – celebrating the sacrament of love as much of our world was consumed by hatred.  I sat with the couple and their friends at their reception that evening. The newly-weds had to compete for attention with the television news that dominated the room and the conversation of guests and staff alike. Recently, the bride from that day contacted me. It was the first time I had heard from the couple since their wedding. In a lovely gesture, she invited me to join her, her husband and their children on 11 September to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary.

September 11, 2001 was a day when evil seemed to triumph. But goodness and love also had its say, as Sr Ethel worked and with the poor and a young couple promised to love each other without limits. To be a Christian is to believe that love will win out in the end.


Fr Albert McDonnell

Radharc na nOileán Pastoral Area.

Clare Champion article 10th of September, 2021