On days like today it is common for us to recall where we were and what we were doing when the horrific event occurred. It is impossible to forget. I was returning from a morning class on my first day of school at the university I was attending at the time, and saw the television in the common room just as the second plane was crashing into the building.
But most of all, we should remember and pray for those whose lives changed forever in that terrible event: the people who died in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington; the families and friends who received terrible news that day and in the days following; the heroic first responders, clergy, and others who went to help; those who have suffered serious health problems as a result ever since; those whom we know who live(d) and work(ed) in the affected areas… And our nation as a whole, for we were all terribly shocked on that day and our life has not been the same since.
Here is the prayer recited by Pope Benedict XVI at Ground Zero, which can easily be adapted for our present circumstances to give expression to our thoughts and prayers on this day:
O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.
We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.
We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.
We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.
God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.
God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.