Monday, September 12, 2005


September 11: Memorial Mass in Biloxi, MS

I've already mentioned meeting up with two retired FDNY firefighters, John Seiler and Chris Edwards. Today, September 11, the Catholic church next to the hospital is holding a special memorial mass. This mass, as the bishop said during the service, had been planned many months before, never dreaming that they would have their own tragedy on this day as another occasion to celebrate mass. It was a moving, patriotic ceremony, opening with the Star-Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful, with a color guard of firefighters. John and Chris went down to the front pew. I went with them, feeling very sheepish because I didn't belong there, but they seemed to want me with them. Here they are talking to the Biloxi Fire Chief.

John and Chris became the objects of a lot of media attention after the mass. They ended up being on the front page of the local paper, and I think on the local TV channel as well.

This was a terribly hard day for them; I won't try to tell their story here because I can't do it justice.

They later went out and delivered 1500 bags of ice from the Red Cross to distribution centers, and came back at 11 pm. These are the guys with bad hearts, backs, and knees, all suffered in service. They're discouraged by some of the bureaucratic stuff, but still soldier on.

To the right is a Biloxi family I talked to after Mass, together with a friend, Dennis, far left. The folks I first spoke with had not had severe damage to their home during the hurricane. Dennis had lost everything--except the family photos and art work that had been removed prior to Katrina's arrival. Dennis' reaction: well, in some ways he's better off because he doesn't have anything to fix! It's all gone--including the piano. he can't figure out where a piano could have gone. Attitude is everything, and these folks have a loving, Christian attitude that is deeply humbling.

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