Sister Beatta Gerrity, affectionately known as the “Singing Irish Nun,” sang at the funerals of many people who lost their lives on September 11. Sr. Beatta, a Sister of Mercy nun since 1959, lives in Rockville Center, a community that she estimates lost 43 young people in the attacks. Having been a teacher for 30 years, she now ministers in Breezy Point, another community badly affected by the tragedy.
Sr. Beatta becomes involved in a funeral or memorial service when the family approaches her and asks her to participate. Sr. Beatta explains, “A lot of young people from Rockville Center worked in Cantor Fitzgerald and on Wall Street. Usually I don’t know them personally but I know their parents. When it comes to a young person’s funeral or memorial service, there is a lot of planning. There are so many ways in which their family and friends want to honor them.”
Six months after the attacks, Sr. Beatta feels that the encouragement the bereaved are inevitably getting — to try and put it behind them and get on with their lives — though well-meaning, is not always sensitive. “I’ve noticed fewer and fewer flags around. People are moving on and that’s natural but for the bereaved families, it’s still so hard. It is not easy to put it behind you when there is no body,” she said.
On a more hopeful note, Sr Beatta feels that the faith of the bereaved families that she has come into contact with is remarkable and helps them in their time of need. “Their faith is very deep and the sense of community is strong. God did not will this to happen — this was the result of an evil act. A lot of good has come out of this evil in the support and love that people have shown one another.” ♦