Continuing with an annual tradition, first responders, students and families gathered at Providence Academy in Plymouth, Minnesota, Friday to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The entrance to the school was lined with 2,977 American flags, each one representing a life lost in the worst terrorist attack in world history. Police and fire vehicles processed through the row of flags as the school band played “God Bless America,” the same song sung by members of Congress on the steps of the U.S Capitol on that fateful day 20 years ago.
Detective Alex Johnson of the San Antonio Police Department, a graduate of Providence Academy, delivered a moving speech on the heroism of Rick Rescorla, who was the executive vice president of security at Morgan Stanley at the time of the attack.
“Survivors say that Rick’s voice could be heard echoing throughout the tower’s stairwell as he sang Welsh battle hymns and patriotic songs to raise the morale of his frightened colleagues around him. Then, United Airlines Flight 175 streaked at almost 590 miles an hour until it disappeared into a plume of fire which erupted from the side of the tower. The entire building shuttered as the support columns absorbed the tremendous explosion. The ensuing blackness caused another stampede of panic in the stairwell but Rick once again brought calm and hope,” said Johnson.
“Amid the turmoil he was heard exhorting those around him with a bullhorn, yelling, ‘Today is a day to be proud to be an American.’ He was last seen on the 10th floor, going back once again to sweep for survivors, and his body was never recovered,” he continued.
Johnson said the stories of heroes like Rescorla, who “ignored their own instincts to save themselves,” will “forever be honored in this nation’s memory.”
“Most of us will not be called to heroism of such dramatic circumstances of life and death. And thank God that’s the case. But no matter what your vocation, we all have a sacred duty to defend what is true and what is good and what is beautiful,” Johnson continued.
“Rick Rescorla understood this obligation. But the struggles often require more than just physical courage. In today’s society, oftentimes, perhaps more so than ever, we need to rely on moral and spiritual courage as well because ultimately the summation of our lives will be made up of small, daily decisions to either do what is right or do what is easy, convenient, and often self-serving. We all stand shoulder to shoulder in that fight.”
Johnson recalled the famous line of St. John’s Gospel: “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
“Profound evil does exist in this world. The many flags that line the entrance to the school bear witness to it. But that’s not the end of the story,” Johnson concluded. “For we are an Easter people and we trust in the ultimate victory of our redeemer. If evil exists, then it is our lot to rise and meet it and stand in the breach.”