9/11 – Where do we find faith?

[A reflection for a faculty meeting at Queens University of Charlotte.]

Today is 9/11.

Our Freshman were born the year of the 9/11 tragedy. Our sophomores, juniors and seniors were toddlers. Our traditional undergrads were born into a world where planes were hijacked, and twin towers — once the second and third tallest buildings in our country — were cut down by evil, destroying and devastating lives and futures and families and our sense of security.

At this precise hour eighteen years, when the Pentagon was hit and flight 93 was heroically brought down before hitting its target of the Capitol building or White House, we ask ourselves, “Where do we find hope?”

We can find hope in the academy.

First, we can find hope in the New York Fire Department Academy. Among its upcoming graduating class are thirteen firefighters – twelve men and one woman – all of whose fathers were fallen 9/11 firefighters. They were young children on that horrific day that forever changed their lives.  In the current FDNY class is also the son of an New York police officer killed on 9/11 and the sons of two firefighters who died of illnesses resulting their work at Ground Zero.

We can find hope in the sixteen “legacies” of 9/11 who are expected to graduate in two weeks from the NY Fire Department academy.

Four children in the same family of one firefighter followed their father’s path (two of whom are in the current NYFD Academy cohort).  Their mom, Mrs. Asaro, a 9/11 widow, notes how “very proud” she is.  

If all these kids, now adults, can pick up fire hoses, imagining their fathers with valor and strength picking up firehoses and carrying them up a smoking tower and tragically facing their deaths; if these children can hold these fire hoses with faith in the future, then so can we pick up our metaphoric firehoses to fight the evils, injustices, and untruths of our world.

On this 9/11, where do we find hope?
Our hope lies in the academy: in the New York Fire Department academy, in this academy of Queens University, and in any school or university where students learn – and are given the tools and the trade and the training to lead.

May we teach our students. May we inspire our students. And may our students inspire us to reach out to others and transform the world for the better.

[Photo by Aidan Bartos]

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