St. Joseph’s College honored the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on Monday during remembrance ceremonies in front of SJC Brooklyn’s Tuohy Hall and SJC Long Island’s O’Connor Hall.
“Today, we remember the first responders,” said SJC Brooklyn U.S. Army veteran Rev. Charles Byrd ’17. “You, the simple people who stand here, are the heroes. Never forget when the buildings went down. You, the ordinary citizens, were the heroes.”
As the American flags at both campuses were lowered to half-mast, students, professors and administrators held a moment of silence. SJC Brooklyn Campus Minister S. Susan Wilcox, C.S.J., delivered remarks during a heartfelt morning ceremony, following the Office of Student Life’s Christian Branch’s singing of the National Anthem and John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
At SJC’s O’Connor Hall, Director of the Office of Military and Veterans Services Erin D’Eletto spoke out to a large gathering of students, faculty and staff, during a ceremony which saw what has become the traditional changing of the campus’ American flag.
“We are here to never forget the lives we lost, to acknowledge the grief of their surviving loved ones, to thank the heroic efforts that saved many lives and to honor our military who have and who continue to protect us from further harm,” D’Eletto said. “The changing of our flag represents the passing of another safe and successful year of study and service.”
James O’Donnell ’10, an FDNY firefighter who was in command of a ladder company that took part in rescue efforts at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, recalled the day’s horrific events and sad weeks that followed.
“That day, the New York City Fire Department would rescue more than 20,000 people from the towers and the adjacent structures,” said the Brooklyn native who spent 30 years with the FDNY. “The next nine months, all the members of the FDNY continued to labor at what is now called Ground Zero … searching desperately to find the remains of those who were killed.”
During those months, O’Donnell made two Celtic crosses from a steel I-beam that was once part of the World Trade Center. The SJC alum donated one of those crosses to St. Joseph’s College, where it will be displayed in SJC Long Island’s Student Veterans Lounge.
“I would hope that when one looks at this cross, they are reminded of all the men and women that perished that fateful day, and that they too never forget,” he said. “I hope that this cross comes to remind us of the reality that good always triumphs over evil.”
SJC Long Island’s Director of Campus Ministry Cristian Murphy led the memorial in a closing prayer.
“It is written in Matthew’s gospel that those who mourn shall be comforted,” he said. “That the meek shall inherit the world, and that those who hunger and search for righteousness shall be satisfied. May we remember the heroes of 9/11, for they were righteous in their actions. And we pray that their strong example can continue to stand as a beacon of hope to us all. Dear God, we pray for peace on Earth and joy within our hearts. May those who perished rest in peace.”
Jamie Aparicio, president of SJC Long Island’s Student Veterans Association, spoke briefly before leading the changing of the flags ceremony.
“I follow the news today, and it’s troubling. My soul weeps at times. Our country is being pulled apart, and if we want to change the world, we must start here. We are tomorrow’s leaders,” he said. “If we’re going to change the world, we must do it together. We must change the way we learn, we must change the way we speak, we must change the way we think and most importantly, we must change the way we love.”