Last Monday, September 12th our Royalmont High School students took a walk.
Not just an ordinary walk.
But, instead, a strenuous walk, in dress shoes, shirts, and ties, skirts or dress slacks and blazers. We walked for a mile and a half, praying and thinking about others. It definitely was more than just a walk, maybe more like a Memorial Walk.
Our high school students at Royalmont are great young people! They are thankful, “Thank you for teaching us today,” many say. (I kid you not!) They are respectful, they aim to please… They really “try.” We, the administration and teachers, feel like we owe it to them to do the best we can to educate and form them because they deserve it.
When we got the opportunity to attend a forum at Mason High School to hear the last known survivor of the South Tower from 9/11 give his testimony, we jumped at the chance. As adults, we have an OBLIGATION to educate our youth, especially those things that MUST be remembered. Of course, you and I remember exactly what we were doing that fateful Tuesday morning in September 2001, but our teenagers don’t. Most weren’t even alive yet and if they were born, they were too young to remember.
So we decided to give our Royalmont high school students a day they would never forget, even though it was 15 years later. We were all so proud of our effort to educate.
Little did we know that Jesus would top all our efforts!
We left the Royalmont campus at 12:15 p.m. praying the Rosary, despite the road construction up through old town Mason, despite the heat and the traffic. We were running late, so the students hustled and prayed, hustled and prayed, sweating and being uncomfortable (to say the least!), experiencing maybe just a little bit of what some New Yorkers experienced that day.
By 1:00 p.m. we were in our seats. Our speaker, Mr. Ron DiFrancesco, came up onto the stage and began to narrate the day’s events. Our students were riveted. They were there, they were there on 9/11 experiencing it through the explicit explanation with all the details of a survivor who had been in the building with all the smoke, the fire, the terror, the death and the hope.
Hope, you may say? How, was there hope?
For, when it seemed like it was over, our survivor had called it quits, he was stuck in the stairwell, smoke everywhere, blockaded at the 72nd floor with no ability to go down and only smoke and fire up. He laid down, closed his eyes and heard,
“Get up. Get up and go downstairs.”
He did not hesitate, he got up. What else would YOU do if you heard a voice in an empty stairwell, speaking to you in your head, urging you to LIVE?
So, he got up and started downstairs.
And as he reached the part at the 72nd floor where the stair was blocked, our hero punched through the wall to discover it was particle board. Soon, he was through and after 72 agonizing flights of stairs he arrived at the lobby.
Our students sat in stunned silence, with everyone thinking, “Did he just say that God spoke to him?” “I think he just said that God spoke to him.”
Yes. He. Did.
Our young people need experiences like this. They need to know about survivors. They need to know about tragedy. They need to know about real life. They need to know that God loves them. God cares about them. God is constantly thinking about them. God comes through despite tragedy and the drama of real life. When there is death, there is also life. They need to know that God can and does talk to those He loves.
In this secular world, we rarely hear witnesses to the eternal. And I must admit, I was not expecting anything “religious” when we started our walk to get some real life history remembering 9/11. But when you have an open mind and an open heart and you go out to serve, God just happens to appear. Indeed, God did appear and what is more, He embraced all of us. How do I know?
Because we decided to take a walk and celebrate true heroism last Monday, September 12th.
I hope He did the same for you!
The watch Mr. DiFrancesco’s was wearing when the 2nd plane hit Tower 2.