As I point out at the Gregorian Institute’s blog … September 11, 2001 showed that one religion is much stronger than anyone thought. That religion is Catholicism. Here are some of the heroes who transformed 9/11 into a story about the power of Catholic identity:
Tom Burnett was a hero of United Airlines Flight 97, which passengers helped take down in Pennsylvania. A daily-Mass goer, father and businessman, he was best summed up in Tim Drake’s “To Pray, to Act, to Fight: A Hero’s Life.”
Find more heroes below.
Father Peter Philominraj, stationed at Our Lady of Victory near the WTC, was finishing Mass as the first plane struck. He immediately organized Eucharistic Adoration, then went outside to anoint the sick and hear confessions.
John O’Neill, head of WTC security (and subject of a Frontline documentary), can stand for all the rescue workers who died. Of the 2,606 who died in New York, 16% were only there to help. Many of these were Irish and Italian; their deaths were marked by Mass cards like this one.
Let Gen. Timothy Maude stand for the victims. There were many touching stories of faith amid the victims of 9/11. Gen. Maude, a Knight and Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, died when the plane hit his Pentagon office.
Judith Toppin wrote an account of her rescue on 9/11. Called “Angels Walk Among Us,” her e-mail went viral. Last spring, her rescuer, Paul Carris was ordained a deacon, finishing a journey he began that day. I wrote about it last Ascension Sunday.
Some heroes were made in the days that followed 9/11. Tim Drake’s powerful “Love Was Lifting up the Rubble” describes Father Geno Sylva‘s experience blessing body parts at Ground Zero and ministering to families.
Jason Read, l, as the New York Times noted, was a first responder who converted to Catholicism at Ground Zero (possibly because he saw Father Geno Sylva blessing body parts … seeing a priest doing that is central to his conversion story) and went on to be an Olympic gold medalist.
Last category of hero: the survivor. It takes a faith like Will Jimeno‘s to force an Oliver Stone movie to notice the power of the faith. “What kept me going was my faith in God that my mother instilled in me as a Catholic,” Jimeno says.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., where he teaches in the Journalism and Mass Communications department and edits the college’s Catholic identity speech digest, The Gregorian.