A Knight in Shining Armor

Love conquers fear, hearts, lives.
by By David Kovacs, LC | Source:
Love and hate, bitterness and compassion, tears of sorrow and words of vengeance, hope and despair. These are the forces that clashed on September 11th, 2001, springing from the inscrutable depths of the human heart. Not some from the terrorists and others from the heroes, but present in all; the perennial temptation to give in to the demon that incites us to fight hate with hate, blood with blood, a curse with a curse.

The terrorists are the ones who gave in; the heroes are the ones who reached down deeper than the deepest depths inside themselves and came back from the dead to return hate with love, maintaining their unshakable belief that good ultimately triumphs over evil. Even more; that it already has.

Yellow post-it notes placed around the house, sure to be found by wife Rhonda and children Rhiannon Rose, 6, and Connor Daniel, 17 months, were left early in the morning by Lt. Daniel O’Callaghan, before heading for Ladder Company 4 of midtown Manhattan. Loving husband, tender father, devoted Catholic, faithful Knight of Columbus, friend, jokester…hero.

The post-its came to be expected, cherished, and missed. Sometimes the notes were a smiley-face, or a simple message like, “I miss you”, “I love you” or some other simple, endearing words, expressions of a heart that couldn’t go all day without communicating his love to those dearest to him.

He had just been promoted to captain on September 10th, joined the K of C a few months before, but this serves as a summary for what his life had always been up to then: a life dedicated to others, consummated in the World Trade Center. He had been afraid of heights as a child, a fear that he had dominated in the face of others’ needs, and so rose to heights physical and spiritual.

No one could crack a joke as readily or effectively as Danny, relieving others’ woes with the universal antidote of laughter. Firefighting isn’t exactly what you call a low-stress profession, and he provided the outlet for his companions. But besides laughter, there is nothing so comforting in life-and-death situations as knowing that you have a buddy who will risk his skin at any time or place to save yours. Everyone knew that they could count on him, and that’s what made him a universally respected leader.

9/11 just proved that once more. After the two airplanes were steered into the Twin Towers, he jumped on the engine and headed for the scene of the tragedy. When Danny got to the buildings, they were already structurally unstable. He went in anyway, thinking more of the immanent danger to the lives inside than his own. That’s where he was when they came down; doing what he did best, giving his life in the act of saving others. He wouldn’t have had it any other way.

At the clang of the bell calling to action, he would glance quickly at an old prayer card that he carried in his pocket, breathe a furtive prayer, and jump on the truck with his fellow firefighters. Prayer wasn’t an accidental detail in his life. The rosary beads he carried with him everywhere were used to help identify his remains. It was part of his life, and his death. It’s what gave him strength to face his fear.

The tragedy of September 11th was six years ago now, but the memory of heroes can never be remembered too often, and should be forever imprinted in our minds. They are our knights in the shining armor of love – true love, which means sacrifice. Danny O’Callaghan’s life and death, and that of so many other heroes born on that day, are still a proof for us who continue to struggle in our daily situations that love is stronger than hate and death, that there is reason to fight, suffer and die when we give our lives for others, becoming living embodiments of the love described in the Gospel of John; “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”.

Information taken from By Their Works, a tribute to Knights of Columbus who have made a difference in the lives of family, friends and communities.

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