Where were you on 9/11?

This was the title of the post on FB of my friend Francis Victor Paro. This question triggered my recollection of that most despicable and infamous terroristic act.

It was 2001 and by August that year, I already finished my tour of duty as one of the Adjunct Clergy in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC.

At that time, I heard that a parish in Little Italy in downtown New York adjacent to the famed Chinatown needed a priest to help the parish. The Wall Street where the Twin Towers were was a couple of miles away from the parish church. I decided to be there to be of help not knowing that in the coming days, a catastrophe of great magnitude would happen.

On that fateful morning, I decided to wake up late, even late breakfast, for my mass at 11. Only then to receive calls from my friends in particular from the Empestan family and my sisters Lourdes and Aida, all from New Jersey, informing me of what was happening. This was amid the sirens of the police and firefighters coming in from all directions. With the coverage and reportage from TV, I knew how serious the matter was.

I still had my mass at 11 with few parishioners all anxious and disturbed with all that was happening. But the celebration of the mass was all we could do. This time Chinatown was deserted just like a ghost town.

We always say “the rest is history” but on a personal note let me add this.

Having been glued on TV the whole morning until when the sun was about to set (no siesta this time), I ventured to walk in the direction of what is now called “Ground Zero.”

After walking for about a mile or so, I could see the extent of the catastrophic event from afar. Then in a short while, the policemen were in a frenzy telling us not to go farther, and lo and behold, the so-called Bldg No. 5 started to shatter down. After witnessing such a horrible sight with a heavy heart, I started to walk back to the rectory as my face felt the early autumn breeze. The sun had just set and night has started to fall.

Soon 9/11 would pass and give way to another day, I mused, but the day would forever be etched, I was sure, in the memories of the people the world over.*