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Scecina alumnus gives Sept. 11 homily: 'It’s a day for healing and it’s a day our country remembers'

On Sept. 11, 2018, Scecina Memorial High School hosted Mass to commemorate the 911 events with the Emerald Society of Indianapolis and officials of the Indianapolis Fire Department. Father John McCaslin, Scecina Class of 1985, officiated at the Mass and Deacon Gary Blackwell of the Class of 1978 gave the homily. Father McCaslin is pastor of St. Simon the Apostle Catholic Church. Deacon Blackwell serves at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church. Here is the full 9/11 message delivered by Deacon Blackwell, who also is an Indianapolis firefighter: 

Deacon Gary Blackwell '78 (left) watches as Father John McCaslin '85 celebrates the Mass held at Scecina on Sept. 11, 2018, to commemorate the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, including the loss of 343 New York City firefighters.

How many of you here today like history? I’m looking to see if the history teachers raised their hands. 

How many of you that raised your hand would say that history repeats itself? Perhaps not in every detail, but today it comes close enough. You see, 37 years ago, I was standing right about there (in the Scecina gym), giving a speech to my freshman classmate,s trying to convince them to vote for me as their class president. It must have either been a good speech or I was better looking then, because it worked. 

So, yes, I am proud to tell you that I am a fellow Crusader. I am a member of the Class of ‘78. I can tell you without a doubt that my four years here helped form me to be the person that I am today. Even though my own faith had declined after high school, God did not give up on me. 

I would have lost a big bet if someone would have told me years ago that I would be standing up here in front of you today as a Permanent Deacon in the Catholic Church. But, more importantly, it tells me that all things are possible with God. 

In addition to serving as a Deacon in places such as hospitals, prisons and nursing Homes, I have been serving the community of Indianapolis as a firefighter for the last 33 years. 

There is something about firefighters that is very unique, besides the fact that we run into burning buildings when everyone else is running out. 

We develop a special bond with one another, not only on our own department, but across the country as well. We even have an exchange program with a fire department in Germany. It’s a brotherhood that knows no boundaries where we risk our lives for each other and even for those we don’t know, and when one of us dies, we all share a sense of personal loss. 

This is why today is a special day for me as it is for every firefighter. It’s a day for healing and it’s a day our country remembers the 2,977 victims killed in the September 11 attacks in 2001. 

Of those killed, 412 were emergency workers in New York City who responded to the World Trade Center. This included: 343 firefighters, including a chaplain and two paramedics of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). 

Even though it’s hard to believe that it was 17 years ago today, this tragedy is still claiming the lives of rescuers and civilians who were there that day as they remain at risk of being diagnosed with related cancers from exposures. 

I think it would be safe to say that a good portion of this student body wasn’t even born when this tragedy struck. And so, I can see how it may sometimes be hard to relate to how much it still affects those who remember it like it was last year.  And like many others I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing on that day. Someday you’ll realize as you get older, it’s not very often that you can remember where you were last month, let alone 17 years ago. 

George W. Bush, who was president at the time, stated that “These acts shatter steel but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.” This statement not only applies to our nation, but in some way, it can be applied to the problems our Church faces today. When we are knocked to our knees, we should use the opportunity while we are there to pray, and then get right back up and make a difference to defend and protect all who are victims of evil in our world. It isn’t the things that happen to us in life but instead how we respond to them. 

The attacks on our country are still taking place every day. Between abortions and the drug epidemic we are killing people by the hundreds of thousands. 

In order to fight back, we have to change the way we perceive things. Because it is said that, “Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, and Your values become your destiny.” 

In the end, our destiny should be helping each other get to Heaven, and in our Gospel reading today we heard how Jesus called his disciples to himself. In a sense they were the first responders, they were running in as others were running out. As baptized Christians he is calling each of us to go out and do the same, to help save those who can’t save themselves. 

As each of you gets older, many of you are going to witness some pretty bad things, but you must remember that God can bring good out of any bad situation. When trouble comes, we need to look to him as our help and guide. 

We cannot, and we must not forget history. By remembering our past, as painful as it can be in some cases, we must pay tribute to the victims of horrible crimes, while also giving honor to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in their attempts to save them.  Remembering the past helps all of us to be better prepared for the future; and if you believe that history does in fact repeat itself, then there is nothing more that we should want, than to be prepared for “When the Son of Man comes again in His glory.” 

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