Readers reflect on 9/11

| September 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

Father Hart

As an associate at the Cathedral of St. Paul, I vividly remember coming back to the offices after the morning Mass and hearing of the attack. Once it sank in, I went up to my residence and wept, for the people lost (we thought there were tens of thousands), for the people who would be so hateful to act as they did, and for us as a country for being so focused on our need to succeed.

The next Mass I celebrated was the evening Mass on the 12th and I had a hard time getting through it, again thinking of the hate and greed that led to the attack. Wednesday morning, the hymn in the Office of Readings was about chaos. And now, every time I come to that hymn, I am reminded of 9/11. I also frequently think of the attack as I see an airplane in the sky or look at a skyscraper and wonder how anyone could perpetrate such an act.

Father Bob Hart
St. Patrick, Inver Grove Heights


The day after Sept. 11, 2001, was the day that I realized how much I love my country. I attended the all-school Mass at Our Lady of Grace Church. Many parents always attended this weekday Mass, but many more attended that day. My husband and I have three children who were students at Our Lady of Grace School then. To close the Mass, the congregation tried to sing “God Bless America.” Many tears were wiped away as some of us tried to sing. . . . Sept. 11 made me feel that America’s freedoms and sense of security had crumbled right along with the crumbling of the twin towers. I wondered if my young children’s lives would change dramatically because of terrorism. I mourned for the people who died and their families and friends, and for the freedoms that might die along with those innocent victims.

Though the congregation was tremendously sad because of what happened, that day I felt somewhat comforted that I was a part of something bigger than myself. Being at church that day confirmed my belief that faith in God can get us through hard times. I pray that “My Home, Sweet Home” will never again have to endure a day like America suffered on Sept. 11.

Mary Ann Steiner Monahan
Our Lady of Grace, Edina


These days our nation is so divided — over economic crisis, polarizing political views and health care policies.  We feel vulnerable because of the lack of jobs, housing and basic security. Our world feels incredibly tenuous.  I pray we have the ability to remember the astonishing solidarity we experienced on 9/11/2001 as one nation.  Our hearts became one, and we felt in a real way our human connection to one another. We were filled with grace and found strength to get through that day and for many days afterward, by leaning on one other.

As citizens of the greatest and strongest country in the world, we mourned the loss of our family and friends. We were shaken to our core upon hearing the tragic stories of so many people who we did not even know.  Sept. 11 changed us for other reasons as well.  Our innocence and security were gone. As a society and individuals, we had been violated. We discovered, though, we could find comfort, solace and strength in our fellow citizens. Our response toward each other was kinder, accepting and gentler, even to perfect strangers.

Here we are 10 years later, and wounds are still open. I wonder, in light of the issues we are dealing with today: Have we forgotten that we are still one country?  When our local government can shut down because consensus cannot be reached, and we have conversations and expectations about me — would that have happened 10 years ago?  My prayer is that we again remember to see each other as God sees us — loving, accepting and always ready to listen. It would be another tragedy for the memory of the people who have lost their lives to turn our backs on the significance of the message we received that day.

Debra Tallarico
Cathedral of St. Paul, St. Paul


In response to your request for memories of 9/11, I believe that my experience on a pilgrimage in Eastern Europe at the time of this tragedy is a story that needs to be shared.

When terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, I was in Eastern Europe on a pilgrimage with a group of 30+ people from the U.S. who had traveled there to pray for peace in the world and for the salvation of souls.  On each day of our pilgrimage, as we visited the churches, shrines and holy sites of Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany, we attended Mass together and prayed the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet during a Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

Arriving in Warsaw on September 4, we journeyed throughout Poland for the next six days, visiting a number of sites connected with Pope John Paul II and Saint Maximillian Kolbe (the Martyr of Charity who died at Auschwitz). In Cracow we had spent a day at the Divine Mercy shrine, where Our Lord revealed his immeasurable merciful love to Sister Faustina Kowalska, and we had the privilege of praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet at the Hour of Mercy with Saint Faustina’s congregation, the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, as they do every day at the 3 o’clock hour.

By September 11 we were in Prague in the Czech Republic, having arrived there the previous evening. The day was beautiful and sunny, and we had attended Mass in the morning at Our Lady Victorious Church before going on a walking tour of Prague’s “Old Town.”  Returning to this church for our Holy Hour in the early afternoon, we prayed the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet, kneeling within 20 feet of the famous Infant of Prague statue.  By mid-afternoon we were on our own, having been instructed to gather together again at 4:30 in the Castle Square.

It is almost impossible to express in words the extreme shock and overwhelming grief that came over each one of us when we met again at 4:30. As we came together, word quickly spread from one person to another that there had been an unspeakable tragedy in New York City less than two hours earlier. Our guide had called home to England on his cell phone and was told by his wife what was being said on TV at that moment.

Everyone was absolutely numb and incredulous to think that something like this could happen in America. We didn’t know what to say or think. As we walked back to the bus in silence, it was a very strange sensation to pass the U.S. Embassy and see the American flag waving in the breeze…  We couldn’t help wondering what all this might mean for our country and the rest of the world.

After arriving back at our hotel, the reality of the news we had heard hit us as we turned on our TVs and witnessed the horror with our own eyes. In our humanness our first thought was “God, how could You let this happen? We have made many sacrifices to come here to this foreign land to pray for world peace, and now our own country is being attacked!” It just seemed incredible that God would allow something so horrendous to happen during our pilgrimage!

As we continued to watch the events unfolding on TV, however, someone in our group calculated the time difference between New York and Prague, and suddenly we came to the realization that we had been praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at the exact time when the first tower was struck in New York!  And at the time the second tower was hit, we knew the Sisters in Cracow and people all over Europe were praying the Chaplet, since they would have started at the 3 o’clock hour (the Hour of Great Mercy). So, as it turned out, in the very place where Our Lord Jesus revealed His unfathomable mercy for the world, the Sisters of Mercy were praying, “Have mercy on us and on the whole world,” and it was at the exact time when the tragedy was taking place!

Upon the realization of God’s timing in all this, we knew it had been Divine Providence. Everything was indeed in His hands, even though the newspapers and all the media would only be giving us the externals of the tragedy. Our faith and our prayer provided the spiritual dimension, the providential dimension.  Trusting in God’s merciful love, we could only believe that countless souls who died suddenly and unprepared on that day were saved. We turned off the TV, knelt down in our hotel room and began to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy again…

On September 12 we left Prague, knowing our pilgrimage had to go on in spite of the heaviness in our hearts. As we continued our journey through the Czech Republic and Germany, we were overwhelmed by many expressions of love, concern and sympathy from the people of these countries toward us and the United States. Wherever we traveled, priests in the churches and shrines we visited extended their sympathy to us and told us they were offering Masses for all those who were involved in this tragedy.  At a shrine in the Czech Republic we learned that all the bells throughout that country had rung at 12:00 noon on that day to show that the Czech people were standing in solidarity with the United States.

Hours later when we reached Germany and stopped at a restaurant, we were taken aback upon walking into the dining room where we saw the bold headlines of several German newspapers hanging on the wall with the word, “Ameriku,” and accompanying photos of the disaster in New York City! It was a very concrete reminder of what, by this time, we all knew was fact, but just the same, it was distressing to be halfway across the world and see those headlines written in an unfamiliar language, but knowing perfectly well what they were saying.

In Fulda, Germany the priest who welcomed our group told us that freedom is a precious gift that we must preserve, stressing that we must not allow wicked people to upset our freedom, and he ended his talk by asking God to protect America and Christian churches everywhere. Our final Mass in Germany was held on the university campus in Heidelberg, where we were once again poignantly reminded of the tragedies of September 11 back home in the U.S.  There on the floor in the front of the church the German university students had set up a graphic memorial to the victims of the terrorist attacks with vivid newspaper headlines, color photos, handwritten notes, bouquets of flowers and lit votive candles. Their demonstration of solidarity with the people of the United States was clearly expressed in a large sign printed in English:  “WE ARE ONE.”

Mary Kay Mahowald
St. Catherine of Spring Lake Township


Seattle, Washington–-Courtyard Motel.–.Final day of our vacation;– 6 A.M. –Phone rings: Our Number Two Son asks, “Are you all right?” Why? And why are you calling at this hour?? ?Husband and I have been vacationing in the northwest for a week with a close friend who flew out from Waukegan.  Number Two Son says “Turn on the TV.  The twin towers in New York have been attacked hundreds of people are dead.  All air traffic is stopped”.??We had been scheduled to fly back to St. Paul at 11:00. That wasn’t going to happen. We had planned to return the rental car last night but thankfully let it slide. Now we had a car but no plane. We drove to the Seattle Cathedral. The church was filled to overflowing even at mid morning. They announced there would be a special Mass at noon. We stayed, as did hundreds of people of all faiths. Our prayers were for all those killed in the towers and planes and for our country.?    ?We stayed in Seattle another night. The management asked that we share the room with our friend since they were swamped by unexpected stay-overs.  The next day there was no idea of when the airports would reopen. Since we still had the car, we decided to drive home, through the mountains and all. We had no highway map but we knew I-90 would get us to Minnesota eventually.??We headed east. Couer D’Alene, Idaho; Miles City, Montana;  Jamestown, North Dakota.  On every over pass there were homemade banners: “God Bless America” or similar prayer for our country.  The fellow “refugees we met at restaurants and motels along the way were unbelievably friendly, worried, and fearful.  ??Ceil Wilde
Vadnais Heights

What first comes to mind when I think back on 9/11 is being at a wake that evening. My former Girl Scout leader had died, and many people filled the mortuary room. It felt very appropriate to be at a wake after watching death and destruction on television all day.

Additionally, shortly after I arrived, the lights in the funeral home went out. Of course, there were no windows where we were, and my first thought was that the attacks had come to Minneapolis. No one knew what had happened. Someone went to get a flashlight while I silently prayed for all of us. It was frightening to wonder if we would die there. (Eventually, the lights came on and we found out later that the problem was caused by a transformer in the neighborhood). That day reminded me of my mortality.

Jane Michaels


Our 23-year-old daughter was having dialysis due to acute kidney failure and, as was our routine 3 times a week, I had settled her in and planned on going to work as usual with my husband picking her up afterwards.

Today was different, however, because it was her birthday and as she sat there, the tears started with her sobbing that she didn’t think she would ever be here.  Everyone around her was at least 30 years older than she and most were sleeping or quietly getting treatment. I asked if there was something special she would like me to pick up and then left for a nearby store. I called my husband and he was going to arrive earlier than planned.

I was in my car after buying a bouquet of flowers to surprise her when I heard on the radio that an airplane had crashed into a building in NYC. When I returned I found a different atmosphere in the room; patients were glued to the TVs in the room and watched wide eyed as the second airplane crashed into the twin towers. My husband had arrived and as we gave our daughter the birthday flowers she looked at us and shook her head in disbelief at the sights she had just seen on the screen, no longer thinking of her plight.

Patricia Kenaley
Maple Grove, MN
St Joseph the Worker Parish


I was taking my 2-year-old daughter for speech therapy at a hospital. The therapist was late for our appointment because she was trying to contact her brother, who was an airline pilot. She eventually spoke with her brother, who was not flying that day.

Cheryl Thorgaard-Reid

My routine early morning walk was anything but routine on Wednesday, September 12. Shaken and disbelieving, I numbly traveled the familiar paths of my safe and secure neighborhood, lightly misted by the underground sprinkling systems that had miraculously resurrected lawns from July’s unrelenting heat and drought. With each step I became consciously aware of the absence of another human — either on foot or passing car. The world seemed suddenly alien with its blue, cloudless sky empty of airplanes or their telltale vapors. The still, tomblike homes defied occupancy in spite of the tricycles and cars left overnight in the driveway. Solace of any kind was not to be found and I felt very much alone in a world that had become tragic and surreal.

Several homes with flags adorning front porches and curbside mailboxes puzzled me as I pondered their origin and longevity. Had they always been there but somehow I had failed to notice? Soft September air filled my lungs as I journeyed, accompanied by the mournful wail of a distant train whistle and the melancholy honking of overhead geese harbingering another winter. Sadly I realized my heart felt nearly as dark and lifeless as the season they were heralding. Where is God in all of this pain, I lamented with a level of emotional intensity that surprised and frightened me?

Valued lessons from my youth surfaced and tenderly sustained me as I recalled learning God is either “no where” or “now here” — it is a matter of faith. Sweet consolation mingled with fragile tears as I clung to my image of a God who remains in control when much of the world appears just the opposite. It is such a paradox, I inwardly cried, simultaneously vacillating between belief and unbelief.

As I prayed for the dead, the missing, those that love them, the perpetrators and all God’s children, I questioned who we are now and how we might be forever changed by the events of September 11, 2001? Will we live and recover from this tragedy much like the summer’s burnt grass that now resembles lush, emerald carpet? Or is this tragedy too big and our spirits too little to rise above it?

Coming to the final stretch with my home nearly in sight I was pleasantly greeted by a young neighbor boy who waited for the approaching school bus. Surprised to see him I smiled and wished him a “nice day”, to which I immediately added, “I wish you a peaceful day.” With no other verbal exchange between us he smiled as if to say, “you, too”.  And in that simple encounter I had hope and my answer. Yes! Our spirits will rise above this!

God bless us EVERYONE!

Joan Bednarczyk


September 11, 2001, Tuesday morning, I was sleeping a little late in my travel trailer when I heard my wife, Mary, exclaim, “David, the World Trade Center is burning and collapsing!”  I set my attention on the television to discover it was not a dream; it was a nightmare.

Earlier that summer I had retired after 47 years at Carlson Companies and we had purchased a travel trailer and were visiting all the California Missions, having started our pilgrimage at the southernmost, San Diago de Alcala.  We had worked our way up to Van Nuys from which we were visiting San Gabriel Archangel and San Buenaventura before visiting my cousins and continuing north.

We were in shock and confusion like the rest of the country.  Would we have trouble getting home?  Were our families in Minnesota safe? A million questions flashed. We noticed that virtually immediately American flags began to be displayed everywhere.  I wanted one to put on my RV so I went to Target to get one; they were all sold out. I tried Wal-Mart; they were sold out. I think some generous fellow tourist from Michigan finally gave us our flag to display.

The rest of our mission trip was a mixture of pride in our church’s history, apprehension for our country, and worry about our families back home.  We were unable to visit San Antonio de Padua because its location is in the confines of a military base.  We attended Sunday Mass at San Juan Bautista where the Franciscan homilist assured us that prayer would get our country through the crisis.

We did finish our mission trip and saw them all except San Antonio de Padua, which was somewhat of a disappointment because that is also the original patron of my home town, Minneapolis.

Dave Burke
St. Joseph’s of New Hope


I was in Pori, Finland at a cousin’s home when a relative called to tell us to turn on CNN.  It was almost dinnertime there and we were just sitting around visiting, when this astonishing news ripped into our consciousness.  We remained glued to the television set as the day progressed from one plane hitting the towers to absolute chaos and madness spreading across the US.  It was such a fear-filled day leaving me feeling horrified and helpless with one extremely frightening thought running through my mind, “What IF I am never able to go home again?”

My husband and children were there and I am not! However in my deepest moments of concern I had the comforting realization that I was one of the lucky ones stranded out of the country. I was with relatives and in a country that is quite safe from this type of conflict — I hung on to that positive thought as restless nights followed.  We had made the decision to not follow the television coverage of the disaster as the stories and pictures would only be more up-setting for me and would serve no purpose.  ??Ten days later I was able to fly home on what I knew would be the safest flight of my life, finally landing in Minneapolis and observing the extreme show of patriotism almost threw me to my knees. Not being in a Catholic country, I did not have the opportunity to go to Mass or take part in the familiar comfort of Church, however, my prayers and faith kept me remaining quite calm and rational. It was with thankfulness that I attended mass in my own parish once again.

Karen L. Prew,
St. Victoria Catholic Community, Victoria, MN


Where was I on Sept 11, 2001?  I was in church in Coon Rapids. Father Reiser was the celebrant and on the altar when Alice Aho ran up and whispered in his ear.  He continued on with Mass until the end and then said something to the effect of “the Trade Towers in NYC have been hit by planes.  Let us pray for all those affected.” Then many of us went into the adoration chapel to continue praying as we did not know how tragic this would be.

I went home and my husband said come and watch on T.V.; this could be terrorists attacking us across the country. My heart and stomach felt sickened and I was in disbelief of what I saw on T.V. I was very fearful of what was happening and kept praying that God would not let the terrorists completely ruin our country. Watching the towers fall was unbelievable — this just was not possible in the U.S.A. in my mind. I prayed for every ones safety in NYC and across the country.

Sadness and shock was my lingering feeling all day long; it reminded me of when President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 when I was 13 and how we all were so saddened to think anyone could harm our President and our country in such a tragic manner.

As to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 draws near it already brings a sense of vulnerability to all of us.  That no one is completely safe in our world from evil acts.  But also a sense of wholeness – the way the NYC police and fire department – rescue teams pitched in to defend and even die for their people.  They were and are still huge heroes in my mind and heart.

I was just in Manhattan recently August 2 – 9 and find the people of NYC very kind, friendly, helpful, courteous and loving and they remind me that much good can come out of any tragedy, that’s the real spirit of Americans and they make me proud. I thank God daily for all those who put themselves in harms way four our freedom. The line “there is no greater love, than to lay down ones life for a friend.” Is still so true.

Respectfully,
Joellyn Soler
Andover, MN


9-11-2011 left us with very vivid memories we had the radio on and were busy putting on Marge’s leg wraps.  It was about 8:15 CST.  All of a sudden there was a news flash and Marge said Betty put the television on quick – then we saw the plane go through the tower.  We watched all morning and knew something tragic had happened.

In the afternoon we went to a Target store to shop. Betty went one way and Marge was interested in greeting cards and discovered President George W. Bush in caricature. She was just sick and angry. We told the checkout lady that the cards should be removed from the shelves especially on such a sad day.  She gave us a leaflet with phone numbers so we called the manager when we returned home. He agreed to take them off the shelf.

Later we went to the 5 p.m. Mass at Nativity Church in St. Paul and the place was packed – standing room only. It was a place of comfort for all. That evening many of us gathered in a lady’s apartment and recited the rosary. [The weekly] night Rosary has continued to this day.

9/11 did not change our thinking about the world because we have always tried to be close to the Lord and love our neighbor and do what we can for others.

Marjorie and Betty Lu Hammargren
Church of St Canice, Kilkenny, MN
Church of the Nativity, St Paul, MN


Tuesday 9-11-2011

An explosion of two tall towers on this day;
filled New York City with thunderous clouds of gray.

This day has brought great sorrow;
devastating memories that will last for many a tomorrow.

Many lives have been taken emotions were strained and shaken.

Many tears have been shed; many prayers have been said.

The hearts and hands of America have come together as one;

Volunteers working together to get the job done.

All flags on this day flew at half staff
honoring the lost and brave on their behalf.

We will never forget the terror of this day,
the sadness, tears and losses of this treacherous act that came into play.

The families of the lost grieve with heavy of heart
We all must turn to God to get a restart.

Gen Bialke
Fridley, MN

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Category: Remembering 9/11