Home » 20 years after 9/11

National 9-11 Memorial in New York City. Photos by Meinrad Scherer-Emunds

First Reading: Lamentations (2:19-21; 3:16-17)

Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches!

Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord. Lift your hands to Him for the lives of your children who faint for hunger at the head of every street.

Look, O Lord, and consider to whom have you done this?

The young and the old are lying on the ground in the streets; my young men and my young women have fallen …

He has made my teeth grind on gravel and made me cower in ashes, my soul is bereft of peace and I have forgotten what happiness is.

(Pause for personal reflection)


The Book of Lamentations is a small psalter of communal laments over Jerusalem, following its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Death and destruction is nothing new in the course of human history. In fact, this brief reading seems most prophetic in its almost eerie description of lower Manhattan thousands of years later.

As we reflect 20 years after this life-altering and historic event, we find we are not in a position to offer praise or criticism; to critique the political and economic landscape; to sit in judgment over what was or was not done. We are not great students of history, nor are we objectively removed from an event that continues to haunt and hurt.

We cannot explain nor are we able to make sense of what our minds continue to struggle to comprehend. But what we can do together is as profound as the event itself.

We can pray to a God we believe does not leave us in our tears and ashes. We somehow find that we are able to reach out not only to those whose lives were so shattered by this terrible event, but we can reach out as well to people of all faiths and cultures who continue to work for peace and still believe in the healing power of compassion and love.

We need not look for hope — hope finds us. Every act of courage, every life given for a brother or sister, every sacrifice made, every prayer said, every blessing given and every search for forgiveness and peace sustains the human spirit and renews life in a human existence that was meant to be more beautiful than ugly.

Charles Sumner, a lawyer, civil rights activist and prominent political figure in the 1800s once wrote, “Give me the money that has been spent in war and I will clothe every man, woman and child in an attire of which kings and queens will be proud. I will build a schoolhouse in every valley over the whole earth. I will crown every hillside with a place of worship consecrated to peace.”

Great men and women, soldiers, poets and politicians throughout the history of humankind have written and spoken of the futility of war. Scripture reveals our God as a God of peace and invites us to turn our swords into plowshares, our spears to pruning hooks and to not train for war again.

On this anniversary of remembrance of Sept. 11, we recommit ourselves to work for peace, healing and forgiveness. We pray for peace in the human heart so that peace can be possible in our fragile global village.

Let us pray together for peace and healing:

Side 1:
We will work for peace because birth continues to happen and because more people treasure life than despise it…

Side 2:
We will work for peace because people find time to speak their values to one another, to love one another, to laugh with one another and to tell one another that they have wept. ..

Side 1:
We will work for peace because we build better than we destroy and because we wish to pray even when others do not. ..

Side 2:
We will work for peace because people believe in conscience and hope for a better future …

Side 1:
We will work for peace because humanity is happier when they heal one another than when we injure one another. ..

Side 2:
We will work for peace because no one really wants war and the Gospel has not been forgotten …

Side 1:
We will work for peace because we know that we are brothers and sisters in this global village and because people continue to look for reasons to have faith in God even while we might deny the Spirit within us …

Side 2:
We will work for peace because we believe that there will always be a time for peace even after we die, even after we sustain all the pain and waste of death. For life 1Nas given to be accomplished and we all die with promises to keep …

We will work for peace because we believe that there is a time for peace because once in human history, there was time for the human heart..

(adapted from Belief In Human Life by Anthony Padovano)

Second Reading: (Matthew 5: 3-12)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.
Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

(Pause for personal reflection)

Let us pray together

May the words you speak be gentle; may you offer dreams that are soft.
May you grant wishes on crystal stars.
May you find promise in the morning sun.
May your days be filled with hope and strength.
Let us begin now to heal the world.
(Judith A. Lindberg)

Reflection on the Remembrance Pools/Tower “Foot Prints”

It takes me all this time to speak of it.

I cannot say, “Come, death,” having learned my secret name is “life.”

The aching loss of men and women I love has little to do with my dying. How can I think of it? The water teaches me what little I know. I remember the words, though I did not hear them: “baptize, spirit, sin, life, son, father, mother, death.” They are words of no meaning to those whose end has not begun already.

I know as little of my birth as I do of my death. They may be the same moment. The water teaches me what little I know. I have been thrown in, and I have come out. Everyone was there when I was born and again when I was baptized; everyone but me.

But I have seen other infants cry at the flood on their faces, lose their breath, choking, trying to say, “But, it was such a short life.” And I saw infants recover, tasting salt, seeing a lighted candle and familiar smiles. I remember the sights, though I did not see them.

No one will be there when I die, no one but me. Will I lose my breath, choke, trying to say, “But, it was such a short life?” Will I recover, tasting salt, seeing the old candle and familiar smiles? Indeed, it seems to have happened already. Do I remember my own death, though I have not died it yet? Perhaps.

What little I know the water teaches. If you are there at my beginning’s end, sing the air with my name, put me near the candle, bless me with belief, and send me off with water again.

(From Elements of Hope by James Carroll)

(Concluding video: ENYA – Paint the Sky with Stars)

Click here for a PDF of this Prayer Service

Barbara Banovich-Mroz
Barb Banovich-Mroz is the former human resource director of Maryknoll Lay Missioners. She lives in Venice, Florida.