Chicago Bell Tolls for the 9/11 Victims

Serendipity led me to this story about a bell from Chicago that tolled for the 9/11 victims in Manhattan. Rev. David W. Schlatter, a fire chaplain in Wilmington, DE, wanted to remember his friend and colleague Rev. Mychal F. Judge, who was a NYC fire chaplain who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Schlatter devised the idea to toll bells for all those who perished in the attacks. Bells have been used for centuries to toll for the dead, so it was a fitting memorial. A bell was struck once for each person who died at there—the tolling in Manhattan took nearly eight hours for all 2,823 people. A separate bell rang at each of the three attack sites in Manhattan, the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, and at Shankesville, PA. A fourth bell rang for all of the victims at Wilmington’s Franciscan Center.

The connection to Chicago is through the largest bell used in Manhattan. The 5,000-pound bell was cast in 1895 by the Van Duzen Bell Foundry in Cincinnati, OH, and it was part of a set of six church bells in Chicago. In 1997, MBNA Corporation in Wilmington had bought the set of bells, and the largest was lent for this purpose at Schlatter’s bidding. McShane Bell Foundry had restored two of the bells already in 1998, and they generously agreed to donate their labor to restore the largest bell for this purpose.

The bell advocate in me is so pleased that Schlatter initiated The Remembrance Project to memorialize the 9/11 victims through traditional bell-ringing. Even more heartening is that the bells have gone on to memorialize the victims at every anniversary through at least 2009, and they have memorialized other fallen heroes killed in the line of duty or in war. The project had eighteen bells as of 2009! And a new set of bells was dedicated to the victims killed in the Sandy Hook attack in 2012.

I do wonder which church, exactly, did the Chicago bells come from. I’ll have to do some further investigation.

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