As I have watched the remembrance ceremonies today on the television and those events which occurred on September 11, 2001 were recounted and pictures shown of the terrible tragic events of that day I must say that I have gotten somewhat emotional and tears have come to my eyes. It saddens me so much that so much life was lost that day due to evil acts that were perpetrated by barbaric Islamofascists. It especially hit me hard when I saw photos of the firefighters and how so many of them lost their lives that day. I have a special connection with firefighters and especially the FDNY. My Father-in-Law died in the line of duty on August 2, 1978. Although I never knew him my being married to Kevin and hearing stories about his dad, George S. Rice, I have felt a very strong connection to him, like I almost knew or know him even though unfortunately I never had the chance to meet him. Like so many other things in my life up til’ 9/11 I took for granted the fact that firefighters risk their lives to save others. Now I am much more cognizant and appreciative of certain things since 9/11. Many of The Bravest paid the ultimate sacrifice that day in what I would call selfless acts of courage when they entered the Twin Towers to save lives but unfortunately never came out. These brave men and women are heroes. In this post I honored my Father-in-Law as my very special fallen hero. Today I have chosen to honor all the courageous firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty on 9/11 as well as Father Mychal Judge who served as FDNY’s chaplain and died on 9/11.
After 9/11 Peter Johnson Jr. delivered a remembrance of his friend at Mychal Judge’s funeral mass.
TRIBUTE TO FATHER MYCHAL F. JUDGE
Your Eminence, Cardinal Egan, President Clinton, Senator Clinton, Mayor Dinkins, Mr. Controller, Mr. Public Advocate, Family, Friends, Firefighters and Friends. “Don’t worry about me. Help the thousands.” Mychal says to us.
I see him kneeling gently, hear him speaking in a firm and lilting whisper, his large hands making reassuring contact with a dying firefighter, his warm eyes focused and loving and deep, communicating the wisdom of almost seventy years and the spirituality of a millennium. Enveloped in the unshakeable concentration of the prayers he knew and lived so faithfully, shrouded in his own mystical but practical Catholic belief, oblivious to the risk of harm that rained from the sky, he died as he lived, trying to save a life, to save a soul in our city on a sunny, not so perfect September morning.
Friar’s friar, firefighter, warrior for the Lord and New Yorker–I can’t help believing that Erin and Dymphna, your beloved Emmet, who wanted to be a priest at the age of four, our beloved Mychal–in the swirling and fiery wind tunnel of the majestic twin towers, helmet off in respect to our creator, lifted his lovely tenor voice and uttered a final Alleluia as he rode the winds aloft, smiling broadly as he shot one final mortal glance at what his model St. Francis of Assisi called “burning sun with golden beam and silver moon with softer gleam.”
Father Mike, it’s not that we hardly knew ya that makes you leaving this earth so hard. It’s that we all knew you so well and depended on you so much that hurts so much.
Though you were neither a husband nor a father, you became a model for husbands and fathers.
Though you never trained on a hose on a fire or experienced the pain of being a firefighter’s widow, you became a model for firefighters and the widowed.
Though up until recently you never felt the anxiety of sickness, you became a guide for the sick.
You taught us that the St. Francis Prayer was not merely a bookmark but a living, speaking roadmap for our daily lives as New Yorkers. We saw your greatness up close and personally. But we respectfully ask why were you so strong?
As Father Pecci pointed out last night at the wake service maybe it was the countless windows and shoes you polished and shined on Dean Street in Brooklyn as a child. Or was it the constancy and strength of example of your mother who balanced the needs of a dying husband, a house and three young children in the Depression?
I have not seen your sisters Erin and Dymphna for some time. So I asked Dymphna last night, what made Mychal great? She said it best: “With Michael there were no narrow truths. There was only wide open possibility.”
As I stepped outside onto 32nd Street near Penn Station last night to get some air, I was struck by the wide world of possibilities that Mychal lived in. I noticed how much more alive the street has become in just in twenty-four hours.
A saxophone could be heard–“Amazing Grace”–the musician played. The smell of fried food in the air. Taxis racing down the street. Men and women laughing in conversation near a parked delivery truck. Mychal would say “How marvelous. What a strong and dynamic people we are!”
And I looked at the faces on the street behind us. In Mychal’s words: “Peter, look at these faces. Brown and black and yellow and white. Such good minds, such strong hands, such hard workers. Such a resilient city. There is nothing like a New Yorker. We’re back.”
In that moment I had an understanding of the incessant activity that Mychal often heard from his room on 31st Street. The same vitality that so energized him even when he was bone tired from caring for the families of the victims of Flight 800 when he would answer the phone or pager and respond to an emergency to support a stricken firefighter. And that was Mychal too. He naturally saw the very best of himself in others. CONTINUED
Here are a couple of videos honoring the 343 Fallen Heroes of the FDNY who lost their lives on 9/11.
God Bless the Fallen and those who they loved and left behind.