During my last resident semester, which was my second to last semester at SHU I decided I needed a retreat away from my friends, like Youth 2000. I found myself back in Kearny, this time on the Living the Lord's Prayer Retreat. It was just what I needed, the ‘in between retreat’, moving away from the 'whoo-hoo Jesus loves me" retreats and heading towards a silent retreat. This retreat rocked, and was just what I needed at the time, I was able to reconnect with old friends and meet some new ones too. LTLP as it became know in the inner circle would become a major part of my life, as I was asked to be on team. Being on team began during my last semester at SHU. Our first meeting was on September 12, 2001, needless to say the day before in etched in my memory. Where was I on September 11th…
I was finishing up my last semester at SHU, and like a good college student I managed to get most of my classes in the afternoon or evening, so I was in bed when my mom came in and told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I thought what type of moron hits a building, thinking in my head it was a student pilot in a small plane. I got up and for some reason decided my car needed to be washed so that’s that I went and did I washed my car which didn’t take too long. I had 95.5 WPLJ on the radio, so ABC was updating me on what was happening. I remember how somber Scott and Todd were compared to their usual antics and my neighbor coming out saying a second plane had hit the towers. At this point, I thought what the hell! As I was cleaning the inside of the car I heard that one of the Towers had fallen, at point I quickly finished what I was doing and went inside to watch the TV. The memories of Jan. 19 just 1 year and 9 months before hand came rushing back. I was home away from my friends, while they were at Seton Hall, where I wanted to me. Much like Jan. 19 I was then glued to the TV to see what was happening.
September 11th for my family has two meanings, two memories. See 9-1-1 is my brother’s wedding anniversary; he being the smart aleck that he is picked 9-1-1 so everyone would remember it, now it carries another meaning. At the time the majority of the extended family lived in NY, the Bronx and Queens, since most of them lived in NY most of them worked in NY, including my father and brother; Dad in the Bronx and Peter in Manhattan, thankfully nowhere near the Towers. September 11th was a little closer to home than it needed to be, add in cops in the family and its closer and it got even closer as the days went on. Calls were made to see how the family was, they all came back clear everyone was safe. It would just take my dad 4 hours to get home instead of the usual 45mins and I don’t remember Peter’s trip I don’t, but I’m sure it took him awhile to get home. Bottom line is they got home safely.
The memories of the days following are jumbled; we went to St. Anthony’s that night for a prayer service. We, St. Anthony’s only lost one person, which surprised me as I assumed that more people from town would have worked in the City. I don’t know if it was at some point that day or the days that followed but we found out that one of my dad’s friends had lost his son. Dennis was a fire fighter and his funeral, well wake is one I will never forget. We also found out that one of our neighbors, John, from the Bronx had worked for Cantor Fitzgerald. John’s memorial Mass, seeing as there would be no body happened first. Other than the big picture of John and his newborn son in the front Mass went on as normal, with the addition of a eulogy or two. John’s Mass was a reunion of people my brother had gone to school with and people we knew from Church. The Mass was followed by a gathering in the downstairs gym. It reminded me of a Christmas Eve Mass instead of a Memorial Mass. At the gathering I heard a lot of, Little Mary no way, that’s not you. My response, yes it is, I’m even 21 now. The laughs would follow, so even though it was a sad occasion, John had managed to get people together that hadn’t seen each other in years.Dennis’ wake on the other hand is something that would stand out more than a Memorial Mass, those were normal. Dennis was FDNY so needless to say the line into the funeral home was massive. In front of my parents and I was a member of a fire department from Rockland County. The line snaked it’s way into the funeral home, and familiar faces were seen on the line or in the funeral home, which is normal at any type of Irish gathering for my family. What struck me the most was that there was no body; it was truly a time for people to just be there for the family. I didn’t personally know Dennis, but when I saw the flowers that said Daddy you will always be our hero, I couldn’t help but shed a few tears. Dennis left behind a wife, 2 young children. There was a picture of Dennis were the body normally is and I remember the man in front of us, who was a volunteer fire fighter was in dress uniform, stopped and saluted the picture. It was just strange and unreal at the same time. And most definitely something I will not forget. Those images are what will stay in my head, a wake without a body, a Memorial Mass for someone I had gone to visit with my brother many times as he lived down the street. That is why I won’t forget where I was on September 11th; it was too close to home.
Now back to the retreat and being on team. Driving to the first retreat team meeting on 280 East was when it hit me that the skyline that I was so familiar with and almost took for granted was changed forever; it was empty, it was broken, and would never be the same. The following weekend the retreat team went to a service at Liberty State Park. To look across the river and see the empty spot, just took my breath away, it was still smoldering in parts. It was surreal to think of what had happened and little did we know how much it would affect our lives. Evil will not leave, the Evil one is not happy unless we’re not happy, so he makes things happen and God allows it because He gave us free will, but that doesn’t mean God sits back and just lets it happen, while thousands died and were injured that day, many were also spared and saved by being late to work or for a plane or by God’s grace of not being near the buildings. Needless to say with the proximity of the team meetings and our locations to NYC and September 11th it became the topic of choice for a few talks. During these meetings I would develop a special relationship with one of my fellow team members, Brian, of whom I have given the living term, jackass, or the ass. I know a few guys named Brian so I have to distinguish, especially since two of them are priests. So, Jackass Brian brings my journey to the spot it is today, once of confusion, questions, and doubting.Since I haven't really talked about Brian I'm going to have to sit down with the story and work with it, so it coherent and non repetitive. So I leave you here wondering why Brian is a jackass.