Friday, June 30, 2006

The Reality of 9/11

A priest-blogger journeys to Shanksville, PA.:

Then I found the site. Hastily paved parking suggested a steady stream, which I saw as I lingered there. A bus full of "plain folks"--Amish, or Mennonites, I mean--pulled up after me. I confess I spent part of my time studying them, too. "It is rude to stare," the voice of my mother echoed in my head; but it was no insult.

There is a large "wall" erected: a section of fence, really,where people have left personal articles and tributes. Plaques, notes, small rocks with messages painted, sat at the base; articles of clothing (!), especially golf hats, with messages written on them. Also, a good representation of rosaries, medals, images of Mary and the saints, and also angels. And, of course, many flags.

On the periphery were a number of stone plaques, which seemed to be sent in from folks--one was from Guatemala!

Most interesting was the graffiti! A section of guardrail stood to one side; and folks had covered it with the most reverent graffiti I've ever seen: prayers and good wishes from visitors, honoring those who died in Flight 93, their families, and our nation. Reading these messages, and examining all that people had left--seemingly everywhere!--was strangely compelling. This was the cumulative tribute of an untold, unregulated number of people, mostly Americans, who passed this way. It said so much about those people.

One thing it said was that we are a Christian people. Very little would have been left if all the tributes involving Christian symbols or belief were removed. A large, simple cross had been erected there.

After I had surveyed all this, I scanned the surrounding fields--where had these brave men and women met their end?About this time, the group of Mennonites sat down on benches inscribed with the names of the fallen, and, I guess I'd call her--stepped out front and gave a simple explanation of all we saw. She pointed out the location, in the fields in front of us, where the airplane slammed into the ground, at over 500 miles per hour, igniting a fire consuming many of the trees. The guide pointed out a grass-covered mound. The government had mulched the trees destroyed by the crash, placed that mound where the plane had crashed.

All the debris from the crash had been removed; no one was allowed to walk on the site but the family of those who died.

Perhaps the first graveyard-elegies ever left in graffiti...

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