Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

In the Ashes of Sept. 11: A Writer Reflects on Ash Wednesday and Her Brother's Death in the Twin Towers

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

In the Ashes of Sept. 11: A Writer Reflects on Ash Wednesday and Her Brother's Death in the Twin Towers

Article excerpt

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. I cannot speak of Ash Wednesday without speaking of ashes and dust. I cannot speak of how my brother, William Kelly Jr., was killed at the World Trade Center, without speaking of ashes and dust.

On the night of Sept. 11, 2001, just before midnight, I took the subway train into Manhattan. My mother had called several times throughout the day and evening, asking me to go look for my brother--to see if he was in a hospital, unconscious or unable to communicate. She was asking me for some sort of proof that Billy was OK, that he was alive and had somehow made it out of the Towers. So a friend and I arrived at Grand Central Station, now a ghost town. As we then walked from hospital to hospital, I. could not help but notice the ashes and dust in the air. They were in my mouth, a bitter taste. They were in my lungs ... my eyes. I often had to stop walking and blink for several seconds just to clear my vision. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." The words I had heard all my life each Ash Wednesday took on a new and special meaning.

On some level, I knew that night that my brother had died. The emergency rooms were empty. The medical staff was waiting. But there simply were no survivors of the falling towers. And on some level, even today, I'm realizing that the ash and dust floating through the air that night was my brother too. This may truly be all we ever have left of him. As strange as it may sound, it gives me great comfort to know that in the early hours of Sept. 12, a part of my brother became a part of me. He was in my eyes. He was in my lungs. He was, and always will be, especially in my heart.

About 10 days later, I went to see a good friend, Fr. Dan Berrigan. I was consumed by sorrow and shock. One theme, one word in particular was bothering me ... …

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