September 11 evokes painful memories for so many, and anyone who was old enough to remember that fateful day can recall exactly where they were when the horrific terrorist attacks occurred.
One of the most powerful examples of a self-sacrificing hero on that day is that of Todd Beamer, a passenger on United Flight 93. Beamer, along with other passengers, hatched a plan to “take down” hijackers before they could hit their target — widely expected to be either the White House or the US Capitol building. Beamer and his fellow passengers died that day, and he left behind his wife, two children, and his yet-unborn child.
Other stories of heroes who gave their lives for others on September 11, 2001 came pouring in in the days that followed, including that of the first recorded casualty, the Rev. Mychal Judge (FDNY Chaplain), a Franciscan priest who remained in the lobby of the Trade Center’s North Tower, praying for the firefighters who rushed past him as they went to the aid of others.
As we recall that day, we honor the memories of those who embody the words of Jesus, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13)
By the same token, the Ulma family of Poland, who perished during World War II for harboring Jews, demonstrate the highest form of Christian love: the willingness to sacrifice one’s very life for another.
Over the weekend, the Church beatified this Polish family of nine (a married couple and their young children), who were executed by the Nazis during World War II for sheltering Jews. During the ceremony, held in their village of Markowa, Poland, papal envoy Cardinal Marcello Semeraro honored the Ulma family for their “gesture of hospitality and care, of mercy” and their willingness to pay “the highest price of martyrdom.”
Pope Francis said yesterday that the Ulmas “represented a ray of light in the darkness of war and should be a model for everyone in doing good and in the service of those in need.” This event marks the first time in history that an entire family has been beatified.
The Ulmas were killed by German Nazi troops and Nazi-controlled local police on March 24, 1944, together with eight Jews they had been hiding in their home. The Ulmas have been hailed as a “deeply Catholic” family who were somehow betrayed, then experiencing their martyrdom.
Unborn Honored as Victims
The smallest victim of this cruel martyrdom was Wiktoria Ulma’s unborn child, who had not been baptized. Mrs. Ulma gave birth as she was killed, giving her son a “blood baptism.”
Among the victims of 9/11 were unborn children, including 9/11 Todd Beamer’s youngest child, who was born just months after her father’s death. Additionally, the National 9/11 Memorial Museum added the phrase “and her unborn child” after the names of expectant mothers on the lists of victims, to honor the lives as well.
During the Ulma family’s beatification Mass. Cardinal Semeraro said that “without ever having uttered a word, today the little blessed cries out to the modern world to welcome, love and protect life, especially that of the defenseless and marginalized, from the moment of conception until natural death.”
Remembering the unborn among the victims of those great tragedies reminds us that God values each and every life, and that all are of equal value in His sight.
Image: Vatican news.
Kristi McCabe is an award-winning freelance writer, Catechist, a former teacher and editor who lives with her family in Owensboro, Kentucky. As an adoptive mother of four and an adoptee herself, Kristi is an avid supporter of pro-life ministries. She is active in her local parish and has served as Eucharistic minister and in various children's ministries.