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Community mourns 9/11 during prayer service in the era of COVID-19

| Monday, September 14, 2020

Nineteen years and 12 hours after the first plane struck the World Trade Center, the Notre Dame community came together to remember those lost to the tragic events of 9/11 in a prayer service at the Grotto Friday.

University President Emeritus Fr. Edward Malloy shared his memories of the day and the response on the campus in the days to come.

Following the attacks, Malloy arranged for mass to be held near the flagpole in South Quad. Nearly 10,000 community members came together that afternoon, Malloy recalled. 

“It was like, ‘Well, the world is up for grabs. We at Notre Dame can be in each other’s presence and that’s consoling, in and of itself,’” Malloy said in his speech.

Maggie Klaers | The Observer
The Notre Dame community gathered at 8:46 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Grotto for an annual prayer service to honor those affected by 9/11. The event was scheduled to start 12 hours after the first tower was struck.

In a similar way manner, students and community members gather on Sept. 11 every year. Sophomore Sabrina Curran, director of faith & service in student government, was in charge of planning this year’s memorial prayer service.

“Planning this event amidst the coronavirus pandemic was by no means an easy task,” Curran said in her opening speech.

Now, in the era of COVID-19, such physical togetherness that was characteristic of the memorial services of previous years is not possible in the same way, yet first-year Annmarie Hackworthy said the emotional support and fellowship of the Notre Dame community was not lacking in Friday’s event.

“Everybody still was distanced, but you could tell that we still have that unity,” Hackworthy said. “The way everybody was standing when we came and walked out, it seemed like everyone was hopeful and together and unified in remembrance of 9/11.”

On campus in the days following the attacks in 2001, Malloy said there was that same sense of unity present, even amidst the fear of the times.

“There was a terrible sense of anxiety; were more things going to happen? So much we had taken for granted was not so assured. And so when we were going to say the Lord’s Prayer during mass, where we usually hold hands, people instinctively locked arms like the alma mater because it was more comforting,” Malloy recalled in his speech.

Malloy said he visited New York City around 40 days after the attack. In his speech, he described his horror in witnessing the aftermath of the crashes firsthand.

“Watching them retrieve bodies, smelling the smells and hearing the sounds and watching what was like a picture of hell — with things burning, steel being pulled up and while these courageous people were looking for the remains of their colleagues and friends,” Malloy said.

Much of today’s Notre Dame’s student body is either too young to remember the infamous day themselves or weren’t alive to experience it, at least in the same way Malloy recalled in his speech on Friday night. Despite this, a generation of post-9/11 students gathered in remembrance and reverence for the lives lost. 

Hackworthy was not yet born on Sept. 11, 2001. As a member of the Air Force ROTC at Notre Dame, she had the opportunity to present the colors at the memorial, a tradition that she says is a way of honoring those who gave their lives to protect civilians. 

As she was presenting the colors, Hackworthy said she noticed there was a palpable energy within the grotto.

“The atmosphere was very similar to that feeling that you get when you walk into the Grotto,” Hackworthy said. “You’re walking down the stairs, and if you’re walking with someone and you were maybe chatting, and it’s just like a hush, a feeling of a weight off your shoulders, and just kind of a presence of everybody just understanding how special that place is.”

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About Maggie Klaers

Originally from Minneapolis, Klaers is a sophomore biology and visual communications design major. She currently serves as Graphics Editor.

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