It’s a week away from the horrible reminder that comes with every September 11th. This year is 10 years and therefore they’ll probably be a bit more ceremony surrounding the fateful anniversary.

It’s also the first anniversary of that day since Osama Bin Laden died. I’m hoping that the message of peace and forgiveness will ring far more truth than the message of revenge and hatred.

But mostly, I’m remembering Debbie and Tom.

Debbie Welsh was the first class flight attendant on United 93, the flight that crashed in Shanksville, PA after several passengers took over the plane from those who hijacked it. Debbie may have been the first one killed on the flight.

I knew Debbie as one of the choir members in the St. Paul Singers, the choir at my then parish, St. Paul the Apostle Church. She stood out mostly because she was a very tall woman and secondly because of her incredible smile. That smile one the heart of Patrick, her husband and someone who I had served on the parish council with who I really liked. Those days after September 11th were tough and we spent a lot of time with Patrick keeping him company. He spoke a message of peace and anti-revenge as he mourned and said that’s what Debbie would have wanted.

Indeed, Debbie made everyone happy. She once had Fr. Brett Hoover wear her high heel shoes at a party as a goof and her big claim was that she dressed up as Cruella DeVille and took her Dalmatian to the Halloween parade in Greenwich Village. She was the envy of every drag queen. She often gave meals to the homeless that was left over from flights she was on. And she led an evening for young adults once with Patrick on love and how to live it each day as someone’s partner. She did. And that love lives on.

Tom Cullen was a college classmate at Fordham. I remember him giving us a talk on fire safety my freshman year because we actually had a pyromaniac living in our dorm. He was a volunteer firefighter back home, I believe and was a huge presence with Fordham EMS. One of my roommates often benefitted from his EMS services as he was a diabetic and had heart troubles. Tom and his friends often got him through the year.

Mostly what I remember about Tom was that he always wanted to be a firefighter. College was kind of the back up plan and while he thought he needed a college degree and considered law school, firefighting was in his blood. Tom was also a great dad. He loved setting up train tracks for his son, Thomas IV. He’d be eager for him to go to bed so he could set up a new track course and it would be ready for him when he’d get up. He never seemed to run out of ideas for his son and those trains. He just wanted to see him get excited.

His wife, another classmate Sue, took some comfort in the fact that he died a hero in those towers trying to save others, but nothing could give her son his father back after that day and nothing would replace the man she married. He was just gone.

So when it comes to 9/11, I lost two friends that day. My wife lost a cousin who I had not ever met, but she was hers and it was tough for her to lose someone.

And yet, 10 years later, I want to forgive. I need to forgive. It’s time to move on and not let this continue to eat away at me. Those terrorists took much away from many of us New Yorkers. But they will never take away the part of me that turns me into a hateful and revenge-filled person. I think God calls all of us to be better than that.

This 10 anniversary might we think about what the world would be like if we responded with love to every hateful thing that has been done to us? In doing so, we are not acknowledging that what those who would harm others do is OK. Rather, we choose to respond with love in knowing that love will always overcome hatred.

We can’t bring Debbie and Tom back any more than we can magically put two towers back together from the rubble that is left behind.

But what we can do, is dedicate ourselves to be people of peace, people of love.

And in doing so, we honor the life that all those who perished gave to us.

A life of love that can never die.