(written September 21)

By Michael H. Brown

Today I'm heading off for the wake of one of the closest friends I've ever had. There won't be a body there. It's still somewhere in the wreckage of the World Trade Center. His name was Danny Smith and he worked in the southern tower for Euro-Brokers and the day he died something left, something deep inside of me diminished. In fact something diminished for the whole nation; we will never be quite the same; the tragedy has caused a watershed event spiritually. 

From what we can piece together he'd started down the stairs after the fire hit the northern tower but then there was an all-clear and he headed back up. We may never know exactly how he died or even where he was. He worked on the 84th floor and was somewhere up there when that second plane struck. The last his wife Mary heard he'd called to tell her to let the kids know that he was all right. They're 14 and 11. 

That was Danny, unafraid, thinking first of others, and at 6'6" larger than life. We met at Fordham University. We worked together in a deli in The Bronx and when it was robbed -- when a gun was put on him -- he never panicked. He never shook. Within days, he had shrugged it off. He taught me something about courage and also something about love. This was a huge guy who lifted weights and could scare anyone he wanted to scare but whose biggest attribute was his heart and also his generosity. Once when I was living in Manhattan he came to me and said he had just read about how hard it was to make it as an author and told me that he'd support me if I ever went broke. 

I never forgot that, and I know that Big Dan (as we called him) would have given his life for his friends.

No greater love. That was Danny. He wasn't much for going to church, but like it says in Scripture, God forgives a lot of things to those who love a lot, and so somewhere out there in the beyond is Danny and he's okay. He's in the Hands of God. I pray for his final entry into heaven and at the same time I pray his death wasn't in vain. I hope my buddy died for a cause. I hope people in this country have awakened to the real presence of evil and the need for purification. The day Danny died, this warning, this chastisement -- whatever you want to call it -- struck very deep. It made me realize how bad things can get. It made me know that heaven is on the move. It made me know we have to change.

God allows evil and victim-souls and draws good from it. It's that simple. It has happened through history. It will continue to happen. The Lord's had enough. We've gone way too far with the "feel-good" mentality. That's true both inside and outside the Church. We're supposed to be upbeat and we're supposed to maintain joy but we're not supposed to ignore wickedness. 

We're supposed to purge evil. We're supposed to cast it out. Currently, it runs rampant. This country has gone on a wild spree of materialism and lust and now we see the smoldering ruins and somewhere in those ruins is my pal Danny.

Remember him today: Danny Smith. Northport, New York. Age, 47. The Mass is Saturday at 11 a.m. He had this smile you'd never forget and that was the last thing one co-worker saw -- Danny smiling a smile of disbelief and staying calm and telling her to hit the exit. It wouldn't surprise me if he got caught up helping someone weaker than he was or letting everyone in front of him. I don't know what happened. I just know that it's autumn and the leaves fall and it's easy to get morbid but I won't do that. I won't do that because I know that with all his love, Danny was not only larger than life, but also larger than death.

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