The Federalist: I’ll Never Forget What I Saw at the Pentagon After 9/11

In summer 2005, I visited the Smithsonian’s American History museum in Washington DC with a couple of Marine friends. All of us were stationed in DC at the time. We were nursing wounds from our experiences in the Global War on Terror, and wandered around the museum admiring various pieces collected from our nation’s history.

I pushed one of my friends in a wheelchair because an improvised explosive device had shattered his leg; the same IED killed three of his friends. It had not yet dawned on me that a 9-11 exhibit might already be on display since it had only been four years, but we rounded a corner and there before us hung a massive American flag.
The room was crowded with visitors, many of them high school students. People were posing, laughing, and making funny faces as they took pictures. I was stunned. My friends were enraged. They turned to look at me. There we stood staring at the American flag that had hung on the side of the Pentagon days after 184 people were murdered on-site in this nation’s largest terrorist attack in history. We all thought: Is nothing sacred? Is four years long enough to forget? Is joking around appropriate in the face of such suffering and evil?

To be fair, these kids were young when 9/11 happened. They were probably 10 or 11 on that fateful day, and irreverence is often a part of youth, but they should have known better. Nearly 3,000 people perished that day, and countless more have died since at the hands of terrorists.

What We Saw that Day
My memories of that flag will forever be different from the majority of Americans and the rest of the world. While most remember it blowing in the breeze in news reports or when they visited the American History museum, I was there in person to see it. I saw it for the first time when, after volunteering at the Army base where I was stationed north of DC, I helped 400 grieving family members visit the Pentagon crash site shortly after the attack. I still see in my mind’s eye the gaping hole, floors collapsed in on one another, smoke rising from the smoldering ashes, the tormented faces of loved ones.

The intensity of seeing the site was amplified a thousand-fold by standing alongside agonized grieving family members; many of whom collapsed at my feet from the sheer weight of their pain. When those families visited for the first time after terrorists flew a plane into that iconic building, I struggled to keep military bearing while standing by in my dress whites, but it became impossible as tears streamed down my cheeks.

Read the rest over at The Federalist.

The World Did Not Know Him: Understanding Christian Persecution

 

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The amount of information we ingest each day from the Internet is staggering. In 5 minutes I can see what is happening worldwide.  Most of that news is bad news.  In fact, a good deal of it is horrifying. From gruesome murders to terrorism to starving children to the erosion of religious liberty in this country, it becomes overwhelming.  The forces of evil are on the march and Christ has called us to be a light in the world even though we face incredible odds on this side of Eternity.  The battle for man’s freedom from sin has been won by Christ on the Cross, but we still have to live in this Fallen world.

 
Yesterday I spent too much time looking at the train wreck that is the news.  I had to catch  my breath as I read one too many horrors.  I was also once again reminded that my freedom as a Roman Catholic in this country is washing away.  Not that this country has been too friendly to Catholics, but it was a nice reprieve.  Actually, all Christians are in great danger, at least those who hold to biblical teachings on human sexuality, of losing their freedoms as well.  There will come a day,  much sooner than any of us think, when we will have to make a choice to either stand with Christ or cave to the secular will.
 
As I prayed Vespers last night, Our Lord gave me a much needed reminder.  Sometimes I forget that the world did  not accept Him, so why should I expect those of us who follow Him to be accepted by the world?  Living in a country that had religious liberty for all, notice how I said “had”, we can forget that we were promised persecution.  What is  happening now is only a natural response by those who do not know, or who have denied that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  That He came to redeem us and save us from ourselves and He came to save us from sin and death.  That His call to love and serve is universal.  He is the much needed medicine for this sick world.  Here is the reading from Vespers last night:
 
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
in letting us be called children of God!
Yet that is what we are.
The reason the world does not recognize us
is that it never recognized the Son.
Dearly beloved,
we are God’s children now;
what we shall  later be has not yet come to light.
We know that when it comes to light
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him
keeps himself pure, as he is pure
 
1 John 3:1-3
 
As I watch the outright assault worldwide on Christians, I am reminded of a scene in The Return of the King.  Aragorn has led a small army to the gates of Mordor.  The gates open and evil in all its fury marches forward to swallow up the small battalion.  Aragorn rallies the troops and they run into battle.  A battle that seems pointless.  A battle they seem sure to lose.  But, this moment is a great reminder that somethings are in fact worth dying for.  It is better to die than to live and choose evil.  In the end, Frodo quite accidentally, destroys the Ring and Middle Earth is saved.  We must daily remind ourselves in the face of great ignorance, hatred, and evil, that Christ has won.  There is nothing that can change that fact.
 
If, like me, you struggle with moments of despair in the face of the world, remember that the world hated Christ first.  Humanity put Christ on a Cross, drove nails into His body, and killed Him.  As hard as it is for me to even imagine at this point in my spiritual journey, what makes me think that I can avoid such a fate?  Not all are called to martyrdom, but many are in fact being called worldwide to die for their Faith.  My family and I must pray for the strength to stand firm when we are called to defend the Faith, in whatever capacity Christ calls us.  No matter what, the tidal wave is coming, but there is always HOPE.