Sunday, May 22, 2011

On the road again.

For me, as for many other young Jesuits, the end of the academic year ushers in a busy summer spent largely away from the place where I spend most of my time. My summer travels began in earnest this past week when I drove up to Massachusetts to visit my family and to celebrate my sister's completion of two concurrent master's degrees at Simmons College (Congratulations, Liz!). Tomorrow morning I fly to Chicago, where I'll make my annual eight-day retreat and then spend a few days visiting friends and favorite places in the city. Further stops on my summer itinerary will follow, but I'll say more about those later.

Regular posting on this blog should resume in early June. Until then, please pray for me as I make my retreat and please know of my prayers for the readers of this blog. AMDG.

Pope Benedict XVI speaks to astronauts.

As Rocco Palmo reported earlier today on Whispers in the Loggia, Pope Benedict XVI has just become the first pontiff to enjoy a live exchange with astronauts orbiting the Earth:
Over four decades after his predecessor of the time greeted the prelate whose diocese encompassed Cape Canaveral as the "Bishop of the Moon" and hailed the Apollo 11 team as the "conquerors" of the lunar surface, earlier today saw Benedict XVI boldly go where no Pope has gone before as the pontiff held a live chat with the crew of the International Space Station, which took place as NASA winds down its decades-long investment in the shuttle program.

Beyond a discussion of science, emotions and the troubles of the planet, B16 turned personal in the 15-minute Q&A session - arguably the greatest extension of his preferred encounters (but, this time, with him asking the questions) - referencing the January attack in Tucson that killed several and gravely injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (the wife of the American captain of the venture, Capt. Mark Kelly) and the recent death of the mother of an Italian crew-member, astronaut Paolo Nespoli.
For more, including video and a full transcript of the Pope's exchange with the crew of the International Space Station, click here. My instant reaction to all of this, in one word: Cool! AMDG.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In memoriam Gustav Mahler.

Gustav Mahler died one hundred years ago today; Gavin Plumley offers some thoughts on the anniversary on his blog Entartete Musik. Musical institutions throughout the world have been marking the Mahler centenary year with a variety of performances, exhibitions, and symposia. To mark today's centennial on this blog, I'd like to write something about the pilgrimage I made last August to Mahler's grave at the Grinzinger Friedhof on the outskirts of Vienna.

Finding Mahler's grave was surprisingly easy, given that I had made my way to the Grinzinger Friedhof without a cemetery map or even the number of the section in which Mahler was buried. I had seen photos of Mahler's headstone, though, so I knew what I was looking for and actually found it shortly after I entered the cemetery. I was completely alone - it was a Thursday morning, and there were no other visitors in sight - and I was accordingly able to spend some time in undisturbed reflection and prayer before the grave.

After paying my respects to Gustav Mahler, I visited the grave of his widow Alma Mahler Werfel, who is buried in the same cemetery. Given what I've read of Mahler's marriage, it seems right to me that he and his wife should be laid to rest in graves that are within sight of one another but nonetheless some distance apart. Moreover, it seems appropriate that the thrice-married and fiercely independent Alma isn't buried with any of her husbands but shares a grave only with her daughter Manon Gropius, who died of polio at the age of eighteen. The Grinzinger Friedhof's elevation provides a panoramic view of Vienna that I hope both Mahlers would have appreciated; the distant spire in the center of the last photo is that of the Stepansdom, the Austrian capital's iconic cathedral.

I can't complete a Mahler memorial post without including some of his music, so here is the Adagio from the unfinished Symphony No. 10, one of the last things Mahler ever wrote and, in my view, one of his very best compositions, performed here by the Wiener Philharmoniker under the direction of Leonard Bernstein. As you listen, perhaps you might spare a prayer for Gustav Mahler. AMDG.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Answering God's call in Iraq.

Yesterday, I came across an inspiring article on vocations to the Catholic priesthood in Iraq which deserves your attention. Here's an excerpt:
Father Daud Barber of the College of St. Ephrem in Qaraqosh, Iraq once traveled to Egypt, Syria, and Germany to study music and play the oud, an ancient stringed instrument. He performed with the symphony in Lebanon, he recounts, his coal-colored eyes brightening at the memory.

But Barber, who grew up in the Nineveh Plains of Iraq, eventually returned home to teach music at St. Ephrem, a Syrian Catholic seminary named for the fourth-century Turkish saint who wrote hymns and poetic sermons. The seminary is located near Mosul, one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq, particularly for Christians.

"I can’t live there," Barber says of Lebanon, shaking his cropped hair, the wiry ends tinted gray. "I needed something here. It’s something spiritual. Iraqis are different. We are part of this earth. We want to stay in Iraq."

In the years since U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime, hundreds of thousands of Christian families have fled Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra, the three largest Christian communities in Iraq, seeking refuge in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and in neighboring Middle Eastern countries, primarily Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon.

. . .

But even with Iraq’s displaced Christians, something remarkable is happening. The number of men entering the Catholic seminaries in Iraq is up, even as the populations that would produce the priests are dwindling.

"There’s not anything to stop priests," Barber says. "Besides, in all of Iraq Christians still want to be married, they want to be baptized, they want to pray. All of the sacraments are important to stay with God. Because of that, we must be priests to serve our people."

The Syrian Catholic seminary at St. Ephrem in Qaraqosh currently has eight men studying to be priests. St. Peter’s Chaldean Catholic seminary in Erbil has 26.

"We can’t tell them they will be safe," says Fadi Lion Nissan, rector of St. Peter’s. "Nobody can give you a guarantee."

And yet they come.
To read the rest, click here. AMDG.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Another kind of memory post, Part II.

Finding myself in a somewhat nostalgic mood, I decided that I would pick up where I left off in my last Austrian memory post and share some more photos capturing one of the 'ordinary' aspects of my time in Innsbruck. One of the things that I liked most about living at the Jesuitenkolleg was being able to walk around on the (flat) roof of the building, taking in the views of the city and mountains. After taking the evening meal in the refectory downstairs, I often went up the roof to watch the sunset and to observe the evening's transformation into night. Though I sometimes brought a book, the scene around me always demanded my full attention and whatever reading I anticipated remained undone.

The above photos were taken on my last night in Innsbruck. Knowing that I was going to miss the view from the roof of the Jesuitenkolleg, I tried to capture the experience as best I could with my camera. The first four photos were taken on the roof itself, while the last two were taken downstairs in the courtyard. For me, it's impossible to look at these photos without yearning for Innsbruck; perhaps they'll have the same effect on some of you, even if you've never been there. AMDG.

Friday, May 13, 2011

On Georgetown's "founding relic."

Yesterday, I stumbled upon this video on the Georgetown University website in which Father Ron Murphy, S.J. explains the history of an old cross that hangs in Dahlgren Chapel on the Georgetown campus. I can't find a way of embedding the video on this site, so here is part of what Father Murphy has to say about what he calls the "founding relic" of Georgetown:
That ancient cross brought over from the old country is the founding relic, in a way, of Georgetown University. It was made from ship's iron that had been brought all the way from England . . . in the Ark and the Dove, sailing vessels that brought the first Catholic settlers to America and to found the Maryland colony.

. . .

When John Carroll founded Georgetown, part of his purpose was, 'We really need to be able to educate our clergy in this country; they really shouldn't have to go to Europe to get a higher education.' That's why he said, "My whole hope for our religion in this country is based upon this institution." The cross is a wonderful symbol of how tightly tied-in Georgetown is both to Europe and to the purpose of the first settlers in coming here to establish a state where you could freely practice your religion and also allow others to freely practice theirs.
To view the actual video, click here. AMDG.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A brief pause.

End-of-semester grades were due yesterday, which is one reason I haven't been able to post anything this week. Later today, I'll be heading to New York to take a bit of a breather before returning to Hawk Hill for Commencement. I may or may not post something while I'm in New York, so this could be a light blogging week altogether.

Though I'm happy to have completed another semester and to have finished my second year of regency, right now I'm most grateful to be done with the task of grading final papers and exams and calculating cumulative semester grades for each student. Getting grades done seems less onerous to me now than it did in my first semester of teaching, but the process still takes a great deal of time and energy. For an entertaining yet eerily accurate look at what this process is like, I suggest that you read this post on the five stages of grading over at Not That Kind of Doctor.

Moving to a matter of greater moment, I think I should make some mention of the ongoing sectarian violence in Egypt. Having recently shared some reservations about the possible aftermath of the country's recent revolution, I'll simply note once again my concerns regarding the safety snd future stability of the Christian minority there and ask you to join me in praying for their well-being. AMDG.

The photo that illustrates this post was found here.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Jesuit nominated to serve as U.S. House chaplain.

Yesterday, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives announced the nomination of Father Patrick J. Conroy, S.J. to serve as Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives. If his nomination is confirmed by the full House, Father Conroy will be the second Catholic priest and the first Jesuit to serve as House Chaplain in the chamber's 222-year history.

A Jesuit of the Oregon Province, Father Conroy has worn many hats in his religious and priestly life: he has pastored parishes on two Northwest Indian reservations, taught high school theology, spent ten years working in campus ministry at Georgetown University, and served as director of formation for his province. If confirmed as House Chaplain, he will regularly offer prayers before the start of legislative proceedings (a duty shared with a roster of guest chaplains representing various religious confessions), counsel members of the House and their families, and otherwise attend to the spiritual needs of the House.

Father Pat Conroy was a chaplain at Georgetown when I was an undergrad; in my experience, he provided a very effective pastoral presence. He had a particular knack for remembering the names and faces of everyone he met; even if he hadn't chatted with you in a while, or if you'd never officially met but he had seen your nametag at orientation, Father Pat knew who you were and would greet you by name. Though I didn't keep in touch with Father Pat after my graduation, he recalled my name instantly when we saw one another in passing years later at Fordham.

I wish Father Pat Conroy well as he prepares for the confirmation process and what I hope will be many happy years as House Chaplain. Reading the House press release sent out yesterday, I was pleased to note that this nomination has bipartisan support; perhaps it helps that Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi both have ties to Jesuit schools (Boehner graduated from Xavier University in Cincinnati, while Pelosi's husband and three of her children all went to Georgetown). With that in mind, I'll be praying for a speedy confirmation! AMDG.

Friday, May 06, 2011

On "living memorials."

This is Harry Patch, remembered at the time of his death in July 2009 as the last surviving veteran of the First World War to have fought on the Western Front. Mr. Patch was one of a handful of centenarians who achived notoriety in recent years as 'the last of the last,' the final survivors out of the many millions who fought in the First World War. With the death yesterday of Claude Choules, the true last of the last has disappeared: there is now no one alive who can speak firsthand of the experience of combat during 'the war to end all wars.'

In interviews, the last of the last typically insisted that they were ordinary men who did nothing particularly heroic; most of them would affirm that war is a terrible thing and that they were lucky to have survived. What made the last of the last so extraordinary was simply the fact that they were the last people alive who could tell us what fighting in the First World War was really like. Memoirists like Ernst Jünger and poets like Wilfred Owen may have provided more eloquent testimony to the horrors of war, but men like Claude Choules and Harry Patch ultimately had the final word. Like Ishmael at the end of Moby-Dick, they could claim the words of Job as their own: "And I only am escaped alone to tell thee."

One of the first published tributes offered to the last of the last on the occasion of Claude Choules' passing was this essay by Guardian reporter Stephen Moss, who reflects on the experience of interviewing several of the Great War's last living veterans:
The interviews were memorable, but not because of what they remembered about the war. History had caught up with them too late for that. They had become living memorials. [Harry] Patch was fantastic, but perhaps too fantastic. He had his script off pat: "That German coming towards me, I thought why should I murder him? He may have a mother. He may have brothers and sisters. He may be married, bringing up a young family. I can't kill him. And I didn't kill him. I shot him above the ankle and above the knee, and brought him down."

. . .

To this day I have no idea whether what Patch said was true. Can you be that precise in the heat of battle?

The oral testimonies gathered in the last years of the veterans' lives had little practical value, because they had spent a lifetime smoothing out their narratives. The real story of the first world war lay with the dead, not the living. Historians give more credence to what soldiers wrote at the time than to anything said afterwards. Letters and diaries count for more than fallible memories.

When I heard Claude Choules describing, in the radio interviews replayed on Thursday, how he hated war, how all soldiers were the same beneath the uniform, I heard again the authentic voice of the survivor, telling the moral tale he knew we wanted to hear.

Too much was being asked of these last survivors: we were willing them to be consciences of a brutal century and they were gamely playing the role allotted to them.
Moss concludes his reflections on the "living memorials" that he interviewed with these poignant yet provocative paragraphs:
The interview I enjoyed most in 2001 was with 103-year-old Douglas Thomson. His principal wartime memory was of a latrine blowing up when hit by a mortar. The rest was largely forgotten – the war was a hell of a long time ago. But he talked of a trip around Scotland he had made with his son in the early 1960s as if it were yesterday; of battles he had had with his employer in the 1950s that still seemed to grate; of friends he had made in his care home but who had too swiftly departed.

For Thomson, war was a faded, fragile memory; it was the life lived since that mattered. We had turned them into symbols, but were in danger of forgetting they were people. As they told their stories for the umpteenth time, they must have wondered if the lottery of longevity was really a prize worth winning.

We should salute Choules, but not worry overmuch that the final link has gone. That linkage was always a media fiction, a publisher's dream.
Moss' recollections of his interview with Douglas Thomson reminded me of the time a local World War I veteran addressed a Memorial Day assembly at my junior high school. Still lucid in his early nineties, Benjamin Dexter still fit into his green AEF uniform and was physically agile enough to get up and down the steps to the auditorium stage without assistance. Mr. Dexter offered some vivid anecdotes of his war service, but he became most animated when he spoke about his boyhood and recited from memory a poem that he had been required to learn by heart in elementary school. The Great War may have been an important part of Mr. Dexter's long life, but it seemed clear that other memories had done much more to define him.

Stephen Moss may be right in holding that "the final link" represented by the last of the last was fictitious. Nevertheless, I still believe that we have much to mourn with the passing of the last generation able to recall a conflict that decisively shaped the course of the twentieth century. May the last of the last rest in peace, and may their memory be eternal. AMDG.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The last of the last.

The last surviving combat veteran of the First World War, Claude Stanley Choules, died today in Australia at the age of 110. Here's more from The Telegraph:
And then there were none. The death of Claude Choules at the age of 110 marks the passing of the generation that fought in the First World War. The last American veteran, Frank Buckles, died in February. Franz Künstler, of Austria-Hungary, was the sole surviving Central Powers combatant when he died in 2008, the same year that the long life of Pierre Picault, France’s oldest soldier, came to an end.

Mr Choules, who during his 41-year naval career also fought in the Second World War, had – perhaps understandably – become increasingly pacifist in his dotage and reticent about discussing his experiences, a characteristic shared by many survivors of those terrible conflicts. Not until he reached the age of 108 did he agree to the publication of his memoirs, The Last of the Last. He was born in England, just two months after the death of Queen Victoria, but spent much of his life in Australia. He disliked any suggestion that he was a hero; and, indeed, his fame was more a result of his longevity than any particular act of derring-do. But what has gone with Mr Choules is what he represented: an extant reminder of an event that changed the civilised world more than any other since the Reformation. So many aspects of our lives today were shaped by that titanic conflict. Its scars and its legacy were deep and enduring.

Now there is no longer a single combatant alive, it is important that we do not forget the sacrifice and suffering of a war that claimed the lives of many millions, a slaughter that is almost impossible to comprehend today. While there have been many wars since the guns fell silent in 1918, there will always be a special place in our annual Remembrance ceremonies for the generation that served alongside Claude Choules.
Eternal memory! AMDG.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

One more post on Bin Laden.

I hope and expect that this will be my last post on the death of Osama bin Laden. Before moving on, though, I did want to share three news items on Bin Laden's death that have drawn my attention.

On Monday, AsiaNews offered a report from a Roman Catholic bishop in Pakistan expressing concern that the country's Christians could be "an easy target" for reprisal by extremists in the coming days:
Christian institutions, schools and organisations in Pakistan have closed down today for fear of attacks. Many fear that the operation by U.S. Special Forces that led to the death of Osama Bin Laden could spark a negative reaction by Muslims against the religious minority. Mgr Lawrence John Saldanha, archbishop emeritus of Lahore, calls for greater protection for Christians, an "easy target" for possible reprisal. . . .
Archbishop Saldanha's concerns seem to be well-founded, as Pakistani Christians have suffered frequent harassment and violence in recent years. This March, Pakistan's only Christian cabinet minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, was murdered because he sought the reform of the country's blasphemy laws. Though I pray for the safety of all Pakistanis in these difficult days, the well-being of the country's vulnerable Christian community remains foremost in my mind.

Bin Laden's death will certainly have some impact on Pakistan's domestic politics as well its relations with the United States, but what will this event mean in the Middle Eastern nations that have been convulsed in recent months by the pro-democracy movements of the "Arab Spring"? If Washington Post reporter Liz Sly has things right, the answer seems to be 'not much':
A decade ago, the Middle East might have responded to the killing of Osama bin Laden with fury at the United States. But with the region convulsed by mostly peaceful popular revolutions, the response to his death has been muted, another signal that the old Arab order is being swept away.

For this new generation, the young Tunisian who set himself on fire and ignited a revolution is a bigger hero than bin Laden, whose vision of martyrdom and jihad has been replaced by more prosaic aspirations such as free elections, good governance and an end to corruption.

"You will see protests for freedom and democracy, yes. But for Osama bin Laden? Definitely not," said Mustafa Alani, director of the Security and Terrorism Studies Program at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.

In the Arab world, he said, al-Qaeda was "already dying."
Sly's reporting seems to confirm two analyses that I referenced yesterday, both of which suggested that Bin Laden and al-Qaeda have already become irrelevant in the eyes of many Arab Muslims. I still have my own particular concerns about the Arab Spring, but I also believe that it's critically important that Westerners realize that what people in the Middle East want right now is peaceful political change.

Finally, I was struck by what this New York Times article had to say about the significance of Bin Laden's death for members of the Millennial Generation who have come of age in the decade since 9/11:
Text messages and social networks did not only help people get and spread the news about Bin Laden’s death, but they also helped people absorb it, spurring impromptu gatherings at ground zero and outside the White House.

It left some reporters and observers trying to place the shared experience of the Bin Laden news in context. "Kennedy moment for a new generation," wrote Alan Fisher, a correspondent for Al Jazeera English, on Twitter. "For my generation, they’ll remember 9/11 and Diana’s death. For those younger, Osama’s death will be on that scale for its global impact."

Sam Dulik, 20, a sophomore majoring in Latin American studies at Georgetown University, was writing a paper in his dorm room when he looked at his Facebook page and saw an update from a friend, making reference to a coming announcement by Mr. Obama and speculation about Bin Laden’s death.

"It just ripped across Facebook," said Mr. Dulik, who watched in real time as bits and pieces of the story exploded in his Facebook news feed. Then he saw calls urging students to gather at the university’s gates and head to the White House.

"For the first time ever, rather than just informing me, it spurred me into action," said Mr. Dulik, who grabbed an American flag off his wall and headed out. "I know that this is different from what happened in Egypt. But it put me in the shoes in a very real way of whose people who use social media as a tool for political activism, for coordination and communication."
I am not a Millennial, but I've spent enough time with them to know that our respective worldviews have been shaped by very different sets of experiences (for example, I have vivid memories of the Reagan presidency and the late Cold War, both of which ended before many of my current students were born). Alan Fisher and I must fit into the same age bracket, as I vividly remember everything I experienced on the day of 9/11 and can easily recall exactly what I was doing when I heard the news of Princess Diana's death (in case you're wondering, I was playing billiards in a student pub). It's fair to say that the news of Bin Laden's death affected me strongly when I first heard it, but I'm sure that it means something very different to people who were children at the time of 9/11 and have grown to adulthood in the decade since.

This concludes our coverage of the death of Osama Bin Laden. We now return to our regularly-scheduled programming. AMDG.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Thoughts on the death of Osama bin Laden.

I'll begin this post with two disclaimers: First, this is not the post I intended to publish today; I gave some thought over the weekend to composing a post on the beatification of Pope John Paul II, but once I heard this news last Sunday night I knew that wasn't going to happen. Second, the post I actually did write - the one you're reading - has evolved considerably since I began work on it yesterday afternoon. My original intent was to focus solely on Realpolitik; since I spent most of my pre-Jesuit life thinking about politics, it should surprise no one that I can't help but think about events like this in political terms. Though politics remains the point of departure for this post, I found myself inevitably getting somewhat personal as I wrote and I decided that some of the personal stuff would have to stay in.

Whatever happens next in the War on Terror, the symbolic impact of Osama bin Laden's death is undeniable. Viewing photographs and video of the crowds that gathered late last night outside the White House, at Ground Zero, and at other locations throughout the United States, one can see the tremendous emotional impact that this news has had on a nation that is still suffering from the trauma of 9/11. Al-Qaeda's targets and victims have never been limited to any one country or national group, so I expect that strong emotional reactions to Bin Laden's death will be expressed throughout the world.

Looking towards the 2012 presidential election in the United States, it must be said that the successful strike against Bin Laden will make it much harder for any Republican challenger to credibly fault President Obama's record on national security issues. For better or worse, many future debates on the President's job performance (among pundits and ordinary citizens alike) will end with this rebuttal: "Yeah, but he got Bin Laden."

What does Bin Laden's death mean in Middle East and other regions where Islam plays a significant role in politics? Writing for Foreign Policy, George Washington University political scientist Marc Lynch argued yesterday that "al-Qaeda had already been effectively marginalized within the mainstream of the Arab world long before bin Laden died." Thanks to a link shared by a friend in New York, I also had the opportunity yesterday to read some thoughts on "What Bin Laden's death means to Muslims" from Dubai-based blogger Iyad el-Baghdadi:
To a Muslim, assessing the life of a man like Bin Laden is difficult. There are two Bin Ladens that we knew. The first was a devout Muslim who called for resistance against occupation. The second was a terrorist who called for violence against innocent people based on flimsy and contrived scriptural evidence.

People in the West (the U.S. in particular) may think that Bin Laden and al-Qaeda was all about them, but it wasn't. The organization he founded and headed, as well as the greater ideological movement to which he belonged, was yet another attempt by the Muslim world to get out of a rut. Some Muslims saw an answer in playing the political game; others in education and propagation. Yet others saw it in violence.

Much will be said and written, and most will be irrelevant. Because Bin Laden was made irrelevant in December 2010, when Muslim people discovered that they can achieve regime change through peaceful means, contradicting al-Qaeda's message that violence was the only solution.

People in the U.S. will celebrate, and people in the Muslim world will celebrate for very different reasons. Bin Laden's death just confirms that our world, the Islamic world, has entered a new phase in its history. New convictions are rising and getting confirmed, as old ones and their propagators are disappearing.
Speaking of celebrations in the United States, a lively debate has been going on regarding this topic over at Vox Populi, the blog of the Georgetown Voice. The crowd of thousands that gathered outside the White House in the early hours of Monday included many undergrads from my alma mater, leading one Vox Populi commenter to fault the Georgetown students who went to the White House for showing "a disgusting nationalist, jingoistic bloodlust I hoped to never see [come] out of my fellows Hoyas." This accusation of "jingoistic bloodlust" (typical Hoya rhetoric, by the way) unsurprisingly generated a lot of argument about whether or not the celebratory spirit of the gathering was appropriate. Here's how one participant responded:
I was also there, and the crowd was clearly not made up of just conservatives or military-hardliner types, and was not just college students. I think this was about many Americans very eager for something to celebrate in a time where things have looked so bleak lately with 2.5 wars and a still-awful economy.

For most I don’t think this was about bloodlust and celebrating death; it was about finally (if only symbolically) closing a chapter of the War on Terror that’s spanned basically all of our politically conscious lives.
The last line about how the War on Terror has "spanned basically all of our politically conscious lives" confirms the generation gap that already exists between my own cohort and today's university students. I graduated from Georgetown in May of 2001 and was a first-year law student at Notre Dame when the 9/11 attacks took place; at the same time, the above commenter and his contemporaries (including the students I now teach at SJU) were all in elementary school. You'll have to ask me what I think about this later on, as I'm still trying to decide what to make of it.

Of all the comments on the Vox Populi post referenced above, this one gave me the most to think and to pray about:
I’m from New Jersey. My best friend’s dad - a man who was basically my second father - died in the Twin Towers. To see how a family was destroyed after the attacks - via drug addiction, dropping out of school, and becoming utterly dysfunctional - was absolutely heartbreaking. The family that exists today isn’t even a replica of what existed ten years ago. And this isn’t a one-family situation - many people I’ve talked to from the New York/New Jersey area have seen very similar situations occur.

A few of my family members in the FDNY volunteered and helped that day. They risked their lives to help others without a second thought about what may happen to them or what may happen to their family members if they happened to pass away.

I went to the White House last night. I wasn’t celebrating Osama bin Laden’s demise. I was celebrating America.

Bin Laden’s death was symbolic for many reasons. For me, and for a lot of other people celebrating last night, it was a symbol that America cares. Ten years later, America is still trying to do whatever it can to make sure what happened to my friend’s family - and many families across America - never happens again.

I was celebrating that my government cares not only about politics and the nation, but about each citizen, each community, and each family. That’s a heck of a reason to celebrate.
What can I say to the above? What should I say to the above? I really don't know. At the very least, I cannot presume to pass judgment on those for whom the pain and trauma of 9/11 is still very raw.

What I can really do? I can recall my own 9/11 experience. I can remember to pray for the lives that were lost and for God's mercy upon those who brought about their deaths, but I can't pretend that this is an adequate response to the losses that the survivors and families of the victims have suffered.

Someday I hope that I'll be able to offer a better response to all this than the one I've offered above. In the meantime, though, I suspect that nothing I can offer is better than silence.