Where were you at?
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, September 12, 2006
“Where are you at in the photo?” I asked the gentleman standing next to me as we both gazed into the new picture of the mass on South Quad five years ago, which now hangs in Coleman-Morris. It turns out my fellow reflector was also a freshman at the time, and even resided in the neighbor dorm to my beloved Dillon Hall. It turns out he and his “Big Dog” frosh section weren’t but a whisper away from my roommate and I that awful day.
Realizing the uncanny nature of our introduction, we did the methodical exchange of where we each “were at” during those initial frightening moments Tuesday morning. During that day, rumors and unconfirmed reports ran rampant of death tolls in the hundreds of thousands. There was speculation of attacks in Los Angeles, attacks on Capitol Hill, imminent attacks on the Sears Tower – there was even a rumor going around of how Our Lady’s University was a target. Those first few hours were a time of unfathomable fear.
Nonetheless, in that hour of despair, our dorm came together as we prayed for the safety of one of our dormmate’s older brother, who was trapped in one of the towers. It was during that abyss, that God’s awesome grace – in the truest sense of the term – revealed itself in a shower of unity, compassion and purpose during the South Quad Mass. Even in the midst of such tragedy, I attest there was not a finer hour of providence during my four-year blip at Notre Dame.
Since that finest hour, my adult years have been marked by military intervention designed to keep our great nation safe and secure: our soldiers have certainly fought a just cause with valor and honor. Yet five years after 9/11, I am now convinced the “root cause of terror” (as the politicians in my city like to say) will never be eliminated until an overall strategy that includes the Church is developed by our country’s leaders.
In the 1980s, Pope John Paul II, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan worked together to implement such a strategy to chip away the strength of Soviet communism in Eastern Europe. The growth of the Church’s influence within the civil society of the satellite states proved instrumental in countering the iron grip of radical communism, thus enabling the internal reformations of 1987.
Although certainly not wholly parallel, radical Islam will not be destroyed by bullets, missiles and predators alone: rather, the tree of jihad must be cut down, bit by bit, by spreading the compassion, love and justice of Christ throughout the world. The same love that compelled the Notre Dame family to come together on the quad that tragic day will also be needed to ensure 9/11 goes the same way of Pearl Harbor – never forgotten, but now belonging in history books, documentaries and photographs.
Otherwise, if we lose sight of what must be done to eliminate the seeds of jihad, we as the Church, Americans and Domers will be forced to live under the shroud of fear the rest of our lives. Fortunately, with Notre Dame’s example of unity that day, America has a template of what must be done to prevail. Fifty years from now, when we show our grandchildren around campus following an Irish victory, they will surely ask, “Where were you at that day?” As long as we remain united as Christians over these next years, we will be able to hold our heads up high and answer them where we stood.
class of 2005