Local News Archive
Print Issue: September 19, 2002
St. Michael The Archangel Parishioners Come Together To Honor 9-11 Victims
By Erika Anderson, Staff Writer
WOODSTOCK - The evening began eloquently, as a lone drummer made his way down the road.
A member of the Knights of Columbus honor guard, Ken Kenan walked slowly down the road from the rectory, his drumming becoming increasingly louder as he made his way toward the congregation gathered around the flagpole outside of St. Michael the Archangel Church.
Wearing a white-plumed cap, Kenan was followed by the incense and cross bearers, a group comprised of service and military personnel, the rest of the Knights of Columbus and the Boy Scouts from the parish. The Knights presented a flag, folded into a tight triangle, that would later be raised up the flagpole.
The reason for the Mass, said Father Paul Flood, pastor, was two-fold.
"Today we honor the victims of Sept. 11, 2001 and we reassure their families that we are praying for their enormous pain and grief on this first anniversary," he said. They were also honoring those who "died in defense of freedom."
The crowd then processed into the church, flooding the pews and filling the extra chairs in the vestibule to create standing room only. Parishion-ers wore their red, white and blue - little girls with ribbons, men with American flag neckties, teenagers with "I love New York" T-shirts.
During the procession, the flag was brought forward and laid beside the altar, where amidst red and blue lights was a display featuring various hats of a fireman, policeman, pilot and military personnel.
The Gospel was tailored especially for the Sept. 11 Mass. As Father Flood read the story of the road to Emmaus from Luke, parishioner Barney Brett interjected Sept. 11 reflections in between verses.
As they returned to their pews from Communion, parishioners were handed white candles. After the concluding prayer and blessing, the candles were lit, the flame passing from person to person. With the lights of the sanctuary dimmed, leaving only the glow from hundreds of candles, the choir began a stirring rendition of "God Bless America." The congregation followed Father Flood's lead and raised their candles overhead.
At the end of the song, Kenan again began his rhythmic drumming and the congregation processed to the flagpole and memorial donated by parishioners to victims of Sept. 11. Father Flood blessed the flag, which was raised to full staff. Following the singing of the National Anthem, the flag was lowered to half-staff.
Many parishioners were moved by the ceremony. Bill Hartrampf attended the Mass with his wife, Virginia, and said he deliberately chose not to watch television that day.
"I wanted to come here," he said. "There needs to be some sort of opportunity to have a spiritual connection with what has happened."
Parishioner Heidi Hughes felt the same way. She said she not only wanted to pray for the victims, but wanted to thank God for keeping her family and friends safe. She also believes that the church is a safe haven.
"I did not want to sit home and watch the TV and relive the accounts of that day. Since the day of Sept. 11 it's hard to even feel safe in our own homes and when I'm at church I feel like all is right with the world for that one hour," she said. "We do not live in a perfect world but when I am at church, asking God to help guide me to do what I can to make this world a better place, then I feel like I'm doing some good."
The flagpole was donated by the Knights of Columbus, to honor those who had died in defense of freedom. Father Flood said that he was "struggling with what to do and how to best honor Sept. 11" and decided a memorial would be appropriate. For four weeks, parishioners donated money for the memorial. The result is a brick structure with a bronze plaque depicting the New York skyline with the twin towers, dedicated in honor of those who lost their lives that fateful day.
He was not surprised by how many of his 2,010-family parish turned out for the Mass.
"On one hand, we're overloaded with messages from the media. And when we're overloaded, we lose sight of what we need to do, which is coming to church," he said. "We are a family, and when someone in our family is hurting, we do the best thing we can do, which is to come together."