Interfaith Service Commemorates 20th Anniversary of September 11
Several weeks after September 11, 2001, Rabbi Seth Phillips was running through the five boroughs of the Big Apple on his way to finishing New York City’s famed marathon.
Organizers decided they would not be deterred in the wake of the worst terrorist attack on American soil. But they gave runners strict instructions—do not accept anything from spectators. Rabbi Phillips, of Congregation Keneseth Israel in Allentown, listened for 25 long and arduous miles. Then, with just one mile to go, he came upon a little girl holding gummy bears.
“I decided if I was going to die, I would go and die because I would not live in a world where I thought that every person was a terrorist. So, I stopped, and I thanked that little girl for coming out. I took some gummy bears from her hand, and I ate them.”
Rabbi Phillips recounted the story, paying homage to that little girl’s determination, during an interfaith service in Connelly Chapel commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
Father Kevin Nadolski, OSFS, Ph.D., vice president for mission, and Walead Mosaad, Ph.D., director of Muslim student life at Lehigh University, also served as celebrants. Fr. Nadolski encouraged those sitting in the pews and watching via Livestream to commit to gentleness and humility, while Mosaad—a New York City native—spoke about searching for beauty in even the most horrific of days.
“9/11 was an ugly day,” he said, “but there was something beautiful about it. The first responders, the firefighters, the police officers, those who went into the towers without giving a second thought that that may be the last few steps they take in their life. But they did it anyway. As much as we see our humanity challenged oftentimes and stretched to its limits, we also find the beautiful things.”
The service paid tribute to the nearly 3,000 lives lost that day 20 years ago, and to one in particular—alumnus Daniel Gallagher ’00, an accounting graduate who went on to work for Cantor Fitzgerald and was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Gallagher’s brother, Sean, recalled a Labor Day weekend the two spent together while Sean was home on leave from the Army. The brothers went to a bar in Red Bank, New Jersey, and talked about their lives and careers while watching a near-perfect game by the New York Yankees.
“It had seemed that evening as if 20-plus years of sibling rivalry and camaraderie had intersected,” Gallagher said. “It was evenings like that that I looked forward to sharing with my brother going forward. But little did I know that evening of September 2nd would be the last time I would spend with my brother. In just over a week’s time, he would perish at the World Trade Center in New York City… This time of year, I choose not to remember 9/11, because I never will forget it. I choose to remember 9/2.”
Ryan Mullaney, DMA, assistant professor of fine arts, and Dennis Varley, DMA, director of liturgical music, performed “America the Beautiful” and “Amazing Grace.” Members of DeSales University’s ROTC took part in a flag folding ceremony. In an especially poignant moment, one of the cadets presented Gallagher with the folded flag as the two saluted each other.
The Office of Veterans and Military Services sponsored the service, which you can watch in its entirety on DeSales University’s YouTube channel. Photos can be found on the DeSales University Flickr page.