‘Not lost in vain’: Two decades after 9/11, archbishop, religious leaders honor fallen 

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron offers the opening invocation during an interfaith memorial service on the Detroit Riverfront to honor the victims, first responders and service personnel who perished during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (Photos by Michael Stechschulte | Detroit Catholic)

Archbishop Vigneron, rabbi and imam offer prayers during memorial hosted by Department of Homeland Security on Detroit’s Riverfront

DETROIT — On a morning similar to the crisp, sunny dawn that broke over New York City two decades ago, about 200 people gathered on the Detroit Riverfront to pay tribute to the fallen, honor the victims and first responders and pledge never to forget the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Joined by Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders, most of those in attendance were service personnel — including members of the Detroit Police Department, firefighters, Border Patrol, federal agents and various branches of the military. 

In a spirit of unity and prayer, Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron offered the morning’s opening invocation, standing in a plaza beneath Detroit’s Renaissance Center, with the Detroit River behind him.

Archbishop Vigneron prays as members of various service branches, local law enforcement and first responders gather along the Detroit Riverfront on Sept. 10 for a memorial service on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. 

“Lord God, as we commemorate this day, Sept. 11, as a time for remembrance and resolve, we ask you to hear us,” Archbishop Vigneron prayed. “In your presence, Lord, we remember those who were victims of terrorism on that dreadful day. Those who died, those who were injured or wounded in body or spirit, and those whose loved ones are among the victims, we entrust anew into your hands, there to find safety and healing beyond what the world offers.”

Archbishop Vigneron also paid tribute to the first responders “who put themselves in harm’s way,” praying that they were sustained “by the sure knowledge that their sacrifices were pleasing in your sight, and continue to be held in high honor by us.”

Along with Imam Hassan al-Qazwini of the Dearborn Heights-based Islamic Center of America and Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, the archbishop prayed for a rejection of violence in the name of religion, as well as to “refrain from blaming the many for the actions of the few.”

Imam Hassan al-Qazwini of the Dearborn Heights-based Islamic Center of America prays as a bell used to toll a moment of silence for the victims of 9/11 is pictured in the foreground.

Echoing the words of Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Ground Zero in 2008, Archbishop Vigneron asked God to guide and comfort those who continue to mourn 20 years after the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

“Grant that those whose lives were spared may so live, that the lives lost may not have been lost in vain,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Comfort and console us, strengthen us in hope, and give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign among the nations.”

The remembrance service began at 8:46 a.m., the same time the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center, with a singing of the national anthem by Karen Newman, voice of the Detroit Red Wings.

A joint honor guard displayed presented the flags of the United States and various service branches, and were bagpipes played to remember those lost. 

A joint honor guard carries the flags of the United States, Department of Homeland Security and several service branches during a ceremony on the Detroit Riverfront in downtown Detroit. 

Among the morning’s other speakers were Detroit Deputy Mayor Conrad Mallett and acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin.

Deputy Mayor Mallett, the son of a Detroit Police officer, reflected on the fact that since 2001, the city has lost 10 police officers and 12 firefighters “in the same way that we commemorate today: because they rushed toward the danger. They ran into the building. They gave their lives so we could have the quality of life that we enjoy today and every day.”

The 2,977 victims were as “diverse and multicultural as America herself,” said Mohsin. 

“They hailed from 58 different countries. They were Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics and Muslims,” Mohsin said. “They held different political views and ideologies. They represented our core values.”

A United States Border Patrol agent stands guard as service personnel prepare to place ribbons on a memorial wreath, in front of which sits a piece of metal recovered from the World Trade Center’s north tower in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. 

“They were not soldiers, but innocent men, women and children who were targeted because of their innocence,” she added. 

Mohsin specifically mentioned Fr. Mychal Judge, a Catholic priest and New York fire chaplain who died ministering to the injured, praying over the dead and encouraging his fellow firefighters as the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. 

“He is regarded as the first official death of the Sept. 11 attacks,” Mohsin said. “His selflessness is legendary. May we all be more like him in our willingness to serve those in need.”

Other speakers commemorated those who died in the Pentagon and aboard United Flight 93, which crashed into a Pennsylvania field as its passengers prevented further disaster by attempting to wrestle control the aircraft away from the hijackers. 

A wreath upon which service personnel placed ribbons prepares to be sent into the Detroit River aboard a boat as a U.S. Border Patrol agent gives a final salute. Moments later, two helicopters from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security flew over the river and those gathered. 

After the speeches were concluded, those gathered observed a moment of silence as members of the Department of Homeland Security and other personnel placed ribbons on a memorial wreath, placed above a piece of scrap metal from the North Tower of the World Trade Center. 

As Taps was played, the wreath was then handed to the U.S. Coast Guard and driven to the middle of the Detroit River, where it awaited a flyover by two helicopters from the Department of Homeland Security.