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Private Confession: By Appointment

A Tribute And Memorial For September 11 - 20th Remembrance

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A Tribute and Memorial To
The Victims And Responders
Of September 11, 2001

Rev. Dean Kavouras, Chaplain
Cleveland Emergency Services (1995 to present)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (1997 to 2014)

September 11, 2021
Soldiers and Sailors Monument
Cleveland, Ohio

Thank you for the invitation to address you in this Memorial and Tribute for the victims and responders of the events that took place 20 years ago today.

Let me begin by defining our gathering, first in the negative and then in the positive.

First I sincerely hope that we have not gathered for vague sentimental reasons. Or for a national day of self-pity! Because that would give great joy to those who, day by day, prove themselves to still be very much our enemies.

Nor have we gathered because we necessarily approve of the way this attack against our nation has been answered by our leaders over the last 20 years; or is being answered today.

But then why are we here?

For noble reasons, indeed!

Firstly we should know that this remembrance is different than previous ones in that a new generation has come of age in the last 20 years. A generation that may lack the understanding and zeal that we possess for the defense of our land and our liberty.

Part of our task here today is to let them know by our example that “freedom is not free,” but that it is very, very expensive. They must learn that what was written down on paper 245 years ago is in danger of perishing in every generation, unless it is staunchly defended with our blood, sweat and tears; and with THE WILL to prevail against every enemy, foreign or domestic, that would curtail our God-given liberties in the slightest.

We have also assembled here today to remember the thousands of innocents who died, and the bereaved who still suffer. We are here to assure them that their loss is not forgotten; and to let them know that the milk of human kindness swells within us, still.

We convene today, as well, to let the world know that we will always respond when our people are threatened; and that when duty calls we will go.

We come together today also to pay tribute to those who answered the call 20 years ago. Who ran headlong into the peril, and who sacrificed so much for the sake of others.

Victim # 0001 at the WTC was none other than 68 year old, FDNY Chaplain, Fr. Mychal Judge, who counted his life as nothing in order to minister to others.

I can also testify to the mighty dedication that was elicited from all of you when we first comprehended that war had broken out on our soil.

Our first thoughts went to our loved ones!

But having the vocation we do meant that we had to leave them behind in order to protect others. And they – in their own breathtaking act of valor – said to us: Go! And we did! Attending to the work with a vigor we did not know we possessed. Standing guard over our city with our own bodies: for no one knew where war would break out next, or what might be required of us before the day was over.

We remember the alarm of the following days: the anthrax, the crazies who came out of the woodwork, the freeway snipers; and while others regained a modicum of stability with time, we remained on the highest possible alert, with no time to think about our own well-being because we did not take this job to be served, but to serve and to expend our lives for the well-being of others.

I can also personally attest to the dedication of the people who operated in Pennsylvania and New York City, our brothers and sisters in the military and safety services who gave their all to the recovery efforts; who breathed in the dust of their fellow human beings 24/7 until finally, in July of 2002, the labor in NYC was complete.

I witnessed members of agencies from all over this great nation converge on Pennsylvania, and on New York City to do their "duty to God and country." Federal, State and Local safety forces. The FBI, ATF, NTSB, U.S. Marshalls, Military Reserves, National Guard, Local Constables, the Pennsylvania State Police, members of the FDNY and NYPD. Members of D-Mort, airline Disaster Response

Teams, and an army of private medical people: doctors of medicine, chiropractic, podiatry and dentistry to name a few. Physical therapists, massage and mental health therapists who, before clock struck 12, were already in their cars plunging into the perfect storm.

Also breathtaking to behold was the army of private engineers and contractors with the skills, knowledge and array of equipment needed to tackle a rescue effort of this magnitude.

And let us never forget the selfless volunteers waiting outside the scene to offer encouragement, consolation, prayers, food, drink, clothing and to meet every possible need in support of the endeavor.

Nor must we forget the myriad of American Citizens who lined up outside Red Cross offices to give blood. Or the parents, grandparents, clergy, teachers and neighbors who consoled the troubled, and comforted the young to make sure that they felt secure.

It felt for all the world like the Old America. “The land of the free, and the home of the brave.” When every American sang from the same song book, and what a feeling it was.

And like they did in that by-gone era many people turned to their faith for solace and for answers. Everyone wanted to talk to the chaplain, to hear a word from Scripture, obtain a blessing, and to begin their shifts with prayer so that they might obtain spiritual strength in the face of sadness and danger. It was an uplifting and liberating time when people again understood what King David says in the 46th Psalm that,

“God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in trouble.”

I recall one incident working third shift at Freshkills, the converted garbage dump on Staten Island that was used to sift through all the debris, searching for human remains, for evidence, personal belongings to return to grieving families.

About two in the morning an eagle-eyed NYPD detective glimpsed a badge going over the edge of the sifter and then disappearing into the rubble below. All work ground to a halt! and that badge became the focus of an intense search!

When it was found another intense search ensued, this time for the chaplain whose presence was urgently requested because everyone had gathered there, and wanted more than any other thing to hold an immediate, impromptu funeral service for the fallen Port Authority police officer, whose badge would soon be returned to his family.

It’s not the kind of thing they prepare you for in the seminary.

But the Divine Word did its work that night and for many more, healing the wounded souls of those who risked their lives, their health, their safety and their sanity for the love of their fellow man.

Based on such devotion we have also gathered today as American Citizens, and as Cleveland’s military and safety forces to re-dedicate ourselves to the same valor, each according to his God-given vocation. In this Jesus is the best pattern who says, “Greater love has no man that this that a man lay down his life for his friends, I have called you my friends.” (John 15:13). Following the example of His perfect sacrifice we devote ourselves anew to the daily task of saving life and property, relieving affliction and restoring those in danger to normalcy.

I hope, too, that we have come together for one other important purpose: to reclaim the blessings of liberty! American citizens are not the perpetrators here. But in the last 20 years we have been treated as if we are.

We have lost large swaths of our PRIVACY which is an essential element of LIBERTY; to say nothing of the greatly diminished freedoms of speech, of movement, and other important liberties, all under the guise of security. And this is intolerable!

In addition we have learned in the last 18 months that we need not only defend our Constitution against “enemies foreign,” but also “enemies domestic.” We found out that our nation is populated with far too many dictators – petty and grand – who are positively delighted to run the lives of others. Some at the doors of retail establishments feeling like Brutus having his way with Olive Oil, Popeye no where to be found. Others in plush offices tweaking on an “unprecedented” adrenaline rush. A once in a lifetime bonanza of new found power to meddle into the affairs of everyone.

Oh the demagoguery!

Oh the virtue-less virtue!

America is their oyster!

But, Fellow Citizens, America is better than that! And that is what I hope we will re-learn today! That America is better than that!

Lastly we have also assembled this day in hopes of gaining a degree of closure if possible, and the power to move forward if we can. That does not mean that we will forget. But instead may this 20th remembrance make us 20 times stronger, and 20 times more resolved to rise to every challenge and to meet it with courage.

God grant us the grace to do that, and to know a brighter future in which we are ever-vigilant, ever-courageous, and ever-free.

Thank you for your kind attention.

1 Comment

Well said pastor!

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