By Karen Zautyk
This was to be a straight news story about local observances of the 9/11 10th anniversary, but this correspondent is finding it difficult to write in that “5Ws” style. So I won’t. There is plenty of strictly factual coverage in the media if that is what you seek. If not, I beg your indulgence.
I attended two interfaith services last weekend: one on Friday evening at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny; another Sunday afternoon at St. Mary’s Church in Nutley.
They were slightly different in format. They were kindred in spirit and sorrow and, yes, the joy of life continuing.
The Kearny service began outside, under too-rapidly-darkening skies, on the wide
lawn next to the church where stands a cross made of World Trade Center beams. Honor guards from the Kearny Fire and Police Departments flanked this relic of destruction and remembrance.
Clergy from churches throughout town gathered there, too, while candles were
distributed to the crowd and then lit, turning the lawn into a memory of end-of-childhood-summer firefly flickerings.
Then came the call to worship, the plaintive cry of the bagpipes and somber roll of drums, with St. Columcille’s band leading the way into the sanctuary beneath a massive American flag suspended between two ladder trucks. It was magnificent. It was heart-rending. It was the same way 343 other flags had been suspended outside the funeral homes where New York’s Bravest were waked a decade ago.
In her homily, the Rev. Elaine Connolly of the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington, posed a question: “How can we cling to hope when we recall the awful things we witnessed?” The answer: “By remembering that, in the midst of evil, there were people who reacted with courage and goodness and love.” Not only the first responders, but also the people in the towers, the people on the planes.
“We cannot dismiss the words of hope,” she said. “God’s compassion is not spent.”
And forgiveness? “Forgiveness means that we move into the light of God’s mercy.”
On Sunday, the light of God’s mercy was evident at St. Mary’s, where, as in Kearny, clergy representing various faiths led the congregation in psalms and prayers. And where the Nutley High School Chamber Singers’ angelic voices soared across the church and to the heavens above.
In his invocation, Father Thomas Nicastro of St. Mary’s called to mind the emotions of that morning 10 years ago: “The blue skies became the source of fiery hatred. Fear overtook us and anger exploded in our hearts.
“But your love, oh Lord, never failed us. . . . Your goodness is stronger than any evil.”
But all the words and the music and the ceremonies, however beautiful and inspiring they were, paled in comparison to the moment when the church went dark and the hundreds of faithful lit their individual candles and then raised them high in an affirmation of hope and faith and life’s continuing joys even in the midst of mourning.
And in a celebration of the comfort of God’s love.
Especially in the midst of mourning.
Last weekend began with the shadows of deep, deep sorrow. And it ended in the light. Brilliant light composed of the tiniest flames that, glowing together, were a benediction banishing the pain.