Deacon Eric Parker looked out over the uniformed men and women Wednesday night and recalled where he was one awful day 18 years earlier.
Parker, who spent 15 years as a North Platte and Lincoln County law enforcement officer, shared his memory of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for his homily during St. Patrick Catholic Church’s first-ever ecumenical “Blue Mass” prayer service.
He was on a hardwood floor in his home, seeking momentary relief from a back injury, when the live coverage of the hijacked airliners slamming into New York’s World Trade Center flashed on his TV.
From what he saw, “I can tell you that, no matter how badly my back hurt ... there is evil in this world,” Parker told an audience of about 50, including North Platte Police Chief Daniel Hudson, a fellow Catholic.
“What I also saw were my brothers and sisters in blue and in red rushing toward the flames, going in and out of the buildings time after time to rescue people, risking their own lives even though they had families at home.
“That’s what you do each and every day,” Parker told the police officers and firefighters in attendance.
“There was no thought immediately of responding to the hate, responding to the evil. Those men and women thought of only one thing: Help those in need. ...
“So there’s only one thing left to remember on this day: Blessed are you, the peacemakers, for you shall be called the children of God.”
St. Patrick’s pastor, the Rev. Joshua Brown, presided over the half-hour service sponsored by the parish’s Council No. 1211 of the Knights of Columbus.
Andrew Mueller, the council’s grand knight, paid tribute to active-duty first responders as well as retired North Platte Fire Department paramedic Patrick Richards, who posted and retired the U.S. flag on the altar.
Richards once was nearly killed on an Interstate 80 rescue call, Mueller said. “Patrick is not unlike all first responders who put their lives on the line daily.”