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Discussion with Father Kevin Smith

Aired September 11, 2003 - 11:33   ET


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I want to thank the children of New York for helping us commemorate this day. Their world is still in the making. As a mayor and a father, I hope it will be a wise and just world and that our city will always be the place where dreams reach skyward and people live in peace.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: What a wonderful and glorious tribute we have all watched down here at Ground Zero. What a day that belonged to the children, too, and the memories and so many images, again, from yet another year.

We just saw an individual down there at Ground Zero filling up an empty water bottle with dirt and dust from the bedrock portion of Ground Zero. We saw family members spelling out their love ones lost in stones down on the bedrock floor. And the flowers. So many flowers. Sunflowers and roses that came by the dozens and by the hundreds as we went throughout the morning here.

It's been another year where we have watched people come down here, reach out to one another, trying to find someone to hold and someone to talk to, others trying to find an empty seat to sit and kneel and pray and think, and that's what we're all doing again today, two years removed, as 2,792 people lost their lives in this very sacred and hallowed ground here at Ground Zero.

Soledad, you never know what to expect when this day rolls around. We did not know what to expect last year. It was extremely powerful and somewhat spiritual, and again this year we witnessed the same emotions and the same feelings here on this day, September 11.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I would agree. Very sad, but Bill, at the same time, as I think the planners were hoping to do, give a sense of looking forward as well.

Father Kevin Smith is a volunteer chaplain with New York's Nassau County Fire Department and on September 11 he really became the spiritual counselor at the saddest place on earth.

You lost 110 parishioners, and as we were watching this memorial service together, you would say, "I know that person," "That was a friend," "I know those children."

How do you advise people to move forward when so much has been lost and the grief, I think, for many people, is nowhere near abating. REV. KEVIN SMITH, CHAPLAIN: Well, you saw so much of the grief today, you know, once again. And I think it's to talk about it, to make sure that if it gets so overwhelming you can't live, that you need help, that you reach out and get some help.

Project Liberty was great. We looked at the children today and one of the things that they setup for the kids is Tom Burk (ph), one of the other guys that passed away, his brother Chris setup Tuesday's Children's Foundation. For every single child that lost someone in the World Trade Center, lost a parent in the World Trade Center, they're reaching out to them, making sure that they got somebody to go to the ballgame with, mentoring programs, the opera, plays, things like that.

And I think that's the important thing, is that we don't lose site of what happened two years ago, when the city came together and opened their arms to everyone, and the world came together and opened their arms to New York. The arms are still open, you know, we really need to realize that, I think, and embrace it.

O'BRIEN: As not only the spiritual adviser for the fire department but also for your parishioners, have you seen people's faith tested? Many of the 9-11 widows will say "I just don't believe anymore, I just can't."

You know, how is it possible to still believe?

SMITH: I think a lot of the -- I was 9 years in St. Mary's Manhasset, and that's where we lost a lot of the parishioners, Manhasset, and I've got to say their faith is tested, but they're a lot stronger when people reach out to them and a lot of them have really embraced their faith deeper.

Now it's the survivors of families, you know the ones that were down there for months on end, not having their husbands around, the rescue workers I worked with, and them also dealing with that whole sense of loss and rebuilding things.

O'BRIEN: Father Smith, thank you for joining us today. We're going to ask you to stick around as well.

It is a beautiful day here in New York City, very similar to the type of day we had two years ago for those of us who were here. So much sadness, but as Father Smith said, also a lot of hope and looking forward.

As hard as it was to hear little children say -- name their parents or name their father and say, "I love you, daddy, I miss you," it clearly is a sign that life goes on.

So we have got much more for you this morning. We're going to continue our coverage of the remembrances of those who died on this day two years ago. Please stay with us everybody and our special coverage on CNN. We're back right after this short break.


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