Today marks the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorists attacks on New York City; Shanksville, Pennsylvania; and Arlington, Virginia.
As Archpriest John Jillions, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, writes in his “Chancellor’s Diary” entry for today, “September 11 [is] a day to remember both the desperate fallenness of this world and the indestructible marks of its creation by our good and loving God… the unspeakable violence of a few terrorists alongside the courage and divine humanity of thousands and thousands.”
According to Donna Karabin, who chairs the OCA’s Department of Christian Service and Humanitarian Aid, in April 2009 the annual 9/11 observance “became known as the ‘National Day of Service and Rememberance,’ inspired by the remarkable spirit of unity, compassion and service that arose immediately following the attacks. The day is now the nation’s largest day of charitable outreach activities. Last year a record 35 million people observed 9/11 by performing good deeds and engaging in service projects to help others.” [See related story.]
Above all, the day remains one of reflection and prayer. And indeed, there is much upon which one might reflect on this day—the endless conflicts and sorrows in Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere across the globe, and the appropriate response thereto; the suffering of countless Christians who have had to abandon their homes, in so many instances literally fleeing for their lives; the challenge to maintain focus on “our true home,” the Kingdom of God, wondrously in our midst yet all-too-often overshadowed by this fallen world and its “values” or lack thereof; and ultimately, the need to embrace that great gift of repentance, the very heart of the Gospel, to which all mankind has been called to embrace in faith and love.
Prayer stands at the heart of this day. We pray for those who lost their lives in 9/11, as well as for their families and friends who continue to mourn the loss of those with whom, just one day earlier, they had walked and talked; for those who, in ways known and unknown, selflessly reached out to victims and survivors alike; for those brave first responders—fire fighters and physicians, police and military personnel and officials, clergy and counselors and coworkers—who brought comfort and hope to friend and stranger alike; and for everyone still struggling to “make sense” of that which, by nature, is senseless.
As we pray on this day, let us especially remember our brothers and sisters in Christ, asking the One Who is our very Life and Resurrection to grant them eternal rest with the saints, that “they may shine like the stars of heaven” in the Kingdom of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to which we all aspire.
Orthodox Christians known to have perished on September 11, 2001
“With the saints give rest, O Christ, to the souls of Thy departed servants, where there is neither sickness, nor sorrow, nor sighing, but life everlasting!”
Anastasios (Ernest) Alikakos
Lieutenant Peter (Panagiotis) Brennan
Peter Constantine Moutos
James Nicholas Papageorge
Anthony (Tony) Savas
Prokopios (Paul) Zois