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Life Can Change in an Instant | September 14, 2021

This past week we marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a day that transformed our lives as Americans.

Archbishop Listecki

Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee


This past week we marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a day that transformed our lives as Americans. We have come to accept the consequences of that terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and the crashed plane many predicted was headed to the Capitol. Many of us lived our lives seemingly invulnerable to the dangers of the world and forces that might seek to destroy our way of life. But all our naivete changed when we watched on our television screens the planes crashing into the two towers. It was such a significant moment that many of us remember exactly where we were when the attack happened. I was preparing to go to a meeting for priests when my music director shouted out, “Bishop you’ve got to see this!” We huddled around a small television screen gasping in disbelief.

There were many acts of heroism amid the death and destruction that was on display for millions to see. First responders, fire and police personnel boldly put their lives on the line, and some would never see their families again. We were a country under attack. What seemed to be only descriptions of war in our history books and novels became a reality. It was happening to us here, in our very homeland.

After the initial shock, our lives were immediately adjusted to counter the threat. We do things today that we take for granted, which were a direct result of 9/11. Traveling in airports we now go through security checks, family and visitors cannot accompany us to the gate, we remove our shoes, belts and any metal objects, our bodies are scanned. A new governmental agency was established called Homeland Security to follow potential terrorist threats and investigate connections of suspicious groups to avoid possible future attacks. We lived for weeks holding our breath wondering when and where the next attack would occur.

I was born after World War II, but my parents remember vividly Pearl Harbor and the sneak attack that led to World War II. “A date that will live in infamy” a famous quote associated with the remarks of President Franklin Roosevelt’s to Congress and the country. I only lived “Pearl Harbor,” in the memories of that experience shared by my parents and their friends. It was hard for me to imagine what my parents felt, that is until 9/11.

I love our country and feel privileged that I was born in a nation that values freedom. I am of a mind that we must never forget, and encourage our young people to remember the cost paid in lives to defend our country. They should also remember that there are those who seek to undermine our democracy through ideologies that are promoting division within, and outside of our country. We must challenge ourselves and ask the question that many of our bravest have asked when confronted with the challenges they faced -- what price are we willing to pay to protect our freedoms to enjoy the life provided for us by our forefathers and ancestors and a resolve to pass on to our children a country that stands for freedom.

Life can change in an instant, and 9/11 reminds us of that fact. But what is an eternal constant is our “faith.” This being the year of St. Joseph, we remember that he is the patron of a “happy death.” A “happy death” is not diminishing the great loss and pain that occurs when one dies, instead we realize that our future is to be with God and a happy death is when we are prepared to meet our Lord and Savior. Through daily prayer, attendance at Mass and reconciliation we have God as our priority. I pray that there will not be another 9/11 in our future as a nation, but whatever occurs I ask St. Joseph that I and we be ready to meet the Lord, as we pledge to live following His command to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.


Note: This blog originally appeared as the September 14, 2021 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.

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