Time flies - 25 years!! - since my classmates and I stormed out of the gates of our all-boys Catholic high school, for parts then-unknown to us. The years have mostly been good to the majority of young Catholic men who emerged from Monsignor Farrell High School in 1981, and there was no small amount of joy to see old classmates and rejoice in how their lives are now in 2006.
There were, however, constant reminders throughout the evening about the events of our collective lives that have impacted each of us, in one way or another. Some of our classmates went on to join New York's Finest and New York's Bravest. During a mass for classmates and their families held at the small chapel on the Farrell campus, our classmate, Rev. Steve Ryan, called out the names of those classmates no longer with us, including two that I knew very well. Jeff Orton had been an elementary school classmate of mine since I was ten years old, in a small class of just 60 boys & girls. Another deceased classmate, David Burkhardt, had been a friendly fellow Cub Scout and Webelo - the precursors to Boy Scouts. Both passed away not long after graduation.
A handful of others, however, succumbed much more recently, during the September 11th attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and the names of all Farrell alumni lost on 911 are included on a banner that hangs from the wall of the school gymnasium. Indeed, my evening ended with another reminder of how many of us on Staten Island had been impacted by 911, when I asked a classmate whose family lived in the same neighborhood as mine about his brother, only to find out that his brother, who went to a different high school, had been an off-duty fireman who answered the call on 911 and didn't make it out, either.
As Steve Ryan said during his sermon, all of us have had our own 911's, the death of a family member or friend, and many mini-911's, where we have failed ourselves or our family, friends or colleagues. Steve's sermon was redemptive, however, and reminded us to appreciate the benefits that we all accrued from the education and experience of attending Monsignor Farrell High School not so long ago. While I don't feel like I'm yet in the '3rd quarter' of my life just yet, our reunion provided an opportunity to reflect on where we came from and where we are now, to reconnect and renew old friendships, and to live lives dedicated to the service of others, today and for all the days this earth has left for us.