September 9, 2009 We were up near the Paul Revere Statue behind Old North Church in Boston. A huge bell had been pulled up on a trailer that had four plaques with the names of Firefighters who had died at the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001. A man with a long but trim white beard had set the bell in place. Another man, who kept calling me a Southern Belle, told us that Brother David Schlatter had been bringing the huge bell to Boston from Delaware for seven years at that time-to commemorate 9/11. There are 7 bells ranging in weight up to 5000 pounds, the one we saw in Boston weighed 3500 pounds- they are called ‘The Bells of Remembrance’. We were invited to come back that evening for a ceremony. Of course we went. Across the street was St. Stephens- Rose Kennedy had been baptized and eulogized there. Only a week before we came, Senator Ted Kennedy’s hearse had driven past St. Stephens in honor of his mother.
It was not very dark when the small crowd began to gather up. The priest from St. Stephens had a very sweet opening prayer. Standing nearby two ruddy Irish and one shining dark with great smiles- three of Boston’s finest Police Officers and also big open faced Boston Firefighter. Each took a turn talking about ‘that day’…as a big boom box was playing everything from Springsteen to Classical and Religious music intermittently. Brother David, now attired in his rustic brown Friar’s Robe with rope belt stood to one side…He looked good-said a wonderful prayer and also told about the Bells of Remembrance– originally cast to remember his dear friend, Friar Mychal Judge, a Franciscan who loved the firefighters he served from St. Francis of Assisi in New York City. Friar Mychal Judge was the first recorded fatality on 9/11.
In Boston that day- a gray haired woman kept taking photographs with a big flash, she wore a full red plaid skirt, red patent wedges and a red shirt. Another lady decked out in sparkling patriotic attire was sitting with the book and a basket of small American flags. We signed the book but were told the flags were for later. The service was casually done and went on for a while- a moment of remembrance was called for- I thought it would be a moment of silence but instead the boombox began playing ‘Imagine’ by Paul McCartney. The wonderful Master of Ceremonies, who kept calling me a Southern Belle- was one of those types with no chin and looked as if he would cry any moment. Next to me was standing a little scrawny woman with thin honey colored hair, in pincurls with bobby pins, house slippers, tiny capri pants and a cotton tshirt. On the other side of my husband stood two men in suits and ties.
- A man from the North End of Boston broke down as told us about his nephew, a ;young man who loved computers and a motorcycle that he liked to tear down and re-build’ had died on 9/11. His family gathered around and hugged him.
- There was a darling lady who worked for American Airlines. She would have been on Flight 11 but had been re-assigned on 9/11- who told what a wonderful crew she had known and loved, but who were hijacked that fateful day.
- A very tall older man from Old North Church was called forth to recite a blessing on a Firehouse Dog- a magnificent Dalmatian; he graciously extended it to us humans as well.
- We sang ‘God Bless America’ along with the cd player as the tiny flags and candles were handed around.
- Each person was lighting their candle by the person next to them. A very large woman with black hair was really enjoying that part.
- One lady was trying to hold her flag and candle in the same hand- her tiny flag caught fire but just on the tip end.
We were told to turn and face the statue of Paul Revere, then look up at the steeple of the North Church which was now lighted.
My candle was dripping on my tennis shoe. The cd player crackled very loud- strains of guitar music began playing ‘America the Beautiful’. We all sang all. three. verses. with Willie Nelson. The woman flashed her camera right at me- I had stars in my eyes…and tears.
As traffic whizzed by we were each encouraged to go over to the big brass Bell of Remembrance. I took my turn and pulled that big rope- the bell rang loud and clear, right in front of whizzing cars, a few dozen people, Paul Revere and God. I recall thinking – ‘Let Freedom Ring’. We thanked Boston’s Finest, Brother David, the priests and the Master of Ceremony who couldn’t resist calling me a Southern Belle one last time…Americans of all shapes and sizes- came together to recall a tragic event; now as I recall and retell it seems more magical as time goes by, I know this Southern Belle will never forget it. What an experience…what a town Boston is…what a great country we live in. Makes me want to sing along with Willie and his friends one more time. You won’t want to miss this- several who sing with him have fallen since it was recorded and will be greatly missed. God Bless America.
Love y’all, Camellia
Images from AOL- go to http://www.stfrancisnyc.org for more information on Friar Mychal Judge