‘God was with us on the stairwell’ – A  9/11 hero hero.

‘God was with us on the stairwell’ – A 9/11 hero hero.

Reflecting on the Aftermath of September 11, 2001

On that fateful day in history, September 11, 2001, the world witnessed a devastating tragedy in the United States. A total of 2,752 lives were lost in New York City, another 184 perished in the Pentagon attack near Washington, D.C., and 40 more souls were taken in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Unforeseen Consequences: A Life Altered

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, many individuals grappled with profound changes in their lives. Brian Carris was no exception. The trauma of that day left an indelible mark on him, leading to a series of issues, particularly anger and rage. Regrettably, this emotional turmoil was often directed toward his own family.

A Triggering Article

Adding to the complexity of his emotions was an article written by another individual, Toppin, who described Carris as an “angel” sent from God. This portrayal of him as a perfect human being, always making the right choices, stirred introspection and self-doubt within Carris. It compelled him to confront the incongruity between this perception and his own life experiences.

The Search for Understanding

Seeking answers and a path towards healing, Carris turned to his parish priest for guidance. Recognizing the need for specialized assistance, the priest referred him to Father Jim Kelly, OFM, a priest who also practices psychology. This marked the beginning of Carris’ therapeutic journey.

A Battle Within

Carris embarked on a nine-month-long process of introspection and self-exploration with Father Kelly. It was not an easy journey, often feeling like a battle against his inner demons. His sessions challenged him to confront the root causes of his anger and rage, ultimately guiding him toward self-awareness and growth.

A Transformative Encounter

In the fall of 2002, Carris received a suggestion from his parish priest that would prove pivotal. He was encouraged to attend a Cursillo weekend—a retreat offered by a lay-led movement designed to deepen one’s relationship with Christ. During this retreat, Carris experienced a profound realization: despite being a lifelong Catholic, he had never truly connected with God. This epiphany marked a turning point in his life.

Opening the Door to Faith

The retreat ignited a newfound thirst for spiritual knowledge and growth within Carris. He began reading religious and spiritual books, embracing the teachings of saints like St. Teresa of Ávila. Carris delved into prayer and participated in courses on Christian ministry, all of which deepened his understanding of his faith.

The Path to the Diaconate

As Carris continued to immerse himself in his faith and engage in various ministries, the journey toward the diaconate unfolded organically. His transformation, from a man grappling with anger to a dedicated servant of his faith, exemplified the profound impact of faith, self-discovery, and healing.

Supportive Spouse and Ordination

Deacon Paul Carris, who serves in the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, found unwavering support in his wife, Carroll, throughout his journey to the diaconate. Their enduring marriage, spanning over four decades, has been a source of strength as he pursued his calling. Deacon Carris was ordained in May 2011, marking a significant milestone in his faith journey.

A Passion for Counseling Engaged Couples

One of Deacon Carris’ most cherished roles as a deacon is counseling couples preparing for marriage. This aspect of his ministry allows him to guide and support those embarking on the sacred journey of matrimony, imparting wisdom and spiritual guidance.

A Lifelong Friendship

Despite the passage of time and life’s challenges, Deacon Carris maintained a deep and enduring friendship with Toppin, who sadly passed away in 2021 at the age of 72. Their bond remained strong, even in the face of the life-altering events of September 11, 2001.

Honoring a Friend’s Memory

In a testament to their friendship, Toppin attended Deacon Carris’ ordination day, celebrating his commitment to his faith. Following her passing, Deacon Carris played a role in organizing a memorial service to honor her life, a gesture of love and respect.

Reflecting on Tragedy and Healing

While Deacon Carris has processed the events of September 11, 2001, and can now openly discuss them, he acknowledges the need for moments of solitude and reflection after sharing his experiences in interviews. His heart remains heavy with empathy for those who lost their lives on that fateful day.

Finding Blessings Amidst Tragedy

Deacon Carris recognizes the profound complexity of expressing gratitude in the wake of a tragedy like September 11. Nevertheless, he believes that his own spiritual journey and transformation in faith have been a blessing. He acknowledges that, amidst the suffering and turmoil, he experienced a profound sense of divine presence and protection on that day in the stairwell.

TDPel Media

This article was published on TDPel Media. Thanks for reading!

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