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Audrey Hepburn: Beauty, Class & a Kind Heart

Friday, September 9, 2011

Saint of 9/11 aka Victim #0001 of the World Trade Center Attacks

Father Mychal Judge

     Before I really get into this, let me start by letting everyone know that yes, I am okay! I know it's been over a month since I blogged but I just got lazy after my last work trip. But, with Sunday being the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I definitely have some things on my heart that I wanted to share.

    While I am a very spiritual person, I'm not the most religious person in the world. I was raised in the Roman Catholic church & there are so many things I love about the religion. (mainly the lengthy history of the church) When I do go to church, the majority of the time I go to a Catholic church. Do I agree w/ everything about the religion? No, there are a few things I take issue with. But, I'm seeing more & more people starting to feel that way about their religion as well. It's hard to find any religion that is going to fit you 100%. Anyway, the reason I'm bringing up the Catholic church is b/c one of my biggest inspirations is Father Mychal Judge. The Orthodox Catholic Church has actually made him a saint since his death on 9/11/01. It's a bit harder to become a saint in the Roman Catholic Church b/c it's quite a process. Father Judge was confirmed death number 0001 at the World Trade Center. Obviously, the people in the plane that hit Tower 1 & the people at the immediate site of the impact were the very first to die on that day but Father Judge was the very first death to be confirmed.

     Father Mychal was Chaplain of the NYC fire department & was a very well known figure in the city. He was extremely loved by the fire department. On 9/11 after the first tower (North Tower) was hit, he rushed to the site so he could be with his men. As he was walking up to the North Tower, Mayor Giuliani (also a Catholic) approached Father Mychal & told him to come with him. He told Mayor Giuliani, "No, I have to stay with my men!". As Mayor Giuliani walked off he told Father Mychal to, "Pray for us!" to which Father Mychal responded, "I always do!". Father Mychal gave last rites to several victims who were laying outside on the sidewalk before finally entering the North Tower. He remained in the lobby at the command post praying the entire time & asking God to end the situation. After the South Tower collapsed, debris was falling from it & landing in the North Tower. Debris hit Father Mychal directly in the head, killing him upon impact. After he was killed, a NYPD officer who had also been buried under debris when the North Tower collapsed, found Father Mychal's body & had a few other men help him get Father Mychal's body out of the tower. They took his body to St. Peter's Church which was nearby & placed him inside at the alter. Before going back out to help, the guys knelt at the alter to give thanks to God for Father Mychal. They then covered his body & placed his NYC FD badge on top of it. To me, the men placing his body at the alter was a way of showing that he literally sacrificed himself at the foot of the alter in order to help others. The picture of the 5 guys carrying his body has become one of the most iconic pictures from 9/11. Because Father Mychal's body was immediately ID'd by a longtime friend who was with the NYPD, he was ruled Victim 0001 of the attacks on the Twin Towers. Some have said they believe he had to be number 1 b/c God needed his services up in Heaven on 9/11.

Father Mychal's body being carried out of the North Tower

     Obviously, there were MANY heroes on 9/11. However, it wasn't just Father Mychal's actions on that day that make him one of my personal heroes. Father Mychal was a recovering alcoholic who still attended AA meetings on a regular basis. He was gay (In orientation! Obviously, since he was a priest, not in practice.) & had been a long time member of Dignity which is a Catholic LGBT organization which advocates change in the teaching of the Catholic Church's view on homosexuality. (many Catholic churches have become more open on the subject) When the AIDS epidemic took place, he was one of the first priests to deliver Last Rites to patients. He helped console AIDS patients & their families. He came from an Irish family & was well known for bursting into Irish songs. The NYC FP loved him. Not only did Father Mychal know all of the guys on the fire department, he also remembered the names of their family members. He had met w/ President Clinton once at the White House & when he came back to NYC, he handed out a bunch of cocktail napkins w/ the presidential seal that he'd managed to walk off with. Like most New Yorkers, he was known to drop some foul language from time to time. Anytime someone from the Right Wing would give him money, he'd turn around & give it to a Gay Rights organization! (LOVE it!!) Basically, he sounds like the kind of person you'd want for your best friend.

     The world needs so many more people like Father Mychal in it. He represents what Jesus stood for... LOVE! He loved EVERYONE! He had friends from all different religious backgrounds. He even had friends who were Atheists. I get so angry at all of these pastors from other religions who basically make the people of their congregations think that unless someone believes in the exact same things you do, you should fear them & treat them like crap. I know way too many people who are "Christians" who say some of the most hateful things towards other people. They don't like Muslims, period. Some of them refer to blacks as a certain racial slur that I do not tolerate. Many of them look down on others b/c maybe they don't come from a lot of money or maybe one parent is black & the other parent white. How can you act that way & then go around talking to people about being a Christian? You think Jesus would go around telling Muslims to burn in Hell? Jesus hung out w/ the lowest of the low in society. He had friends who were prostitutes & friends who were homeless. He believed in helping the poor & the sick, not looking at them as outcasts of society who you should ignore or treat badly. Father Mychal completely embodied that!
     I wish more people would start to idolize people like Father Mychal. It's sad that people like the cast of Jersey Shore are celebrities & well known by society yet most people couldn't give a single name of one of the almost 400 firemen who made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11. THAT is the type of person people need to look up to. The passengers of United 93 who, after learning that their hijacked plane would likely be used in the same way the other 3 hijacked flights that day had been, decided that they wouldn't allow their plane to be used as a weapon & stormed the cockpit. They ultimately gave their lives when crashing the plane into an empty field in Pennsylvania. They are the type of people we need to teach kids to look up to. They are what heroes are! We should all be thankful that there are people like that who exist in this world.

     Since I am Catholic, there are times when I call on certain saints in prayer. Usually, I pray to God or to Mary but there are a few saints that I pray to b/c of what they "specialize" in. (I.E. Saint Jude b/c he is one of the saints who helps the sick) Even though Father Mychal has not become a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, in my eyes, he is most definitely a saint. There are times when I do just stop & kind of ask him to guide me in what I'm doing. Even though I never knew him personally, he has had a huge impact on my life. And obviously I'm not the only one who feels that way. Over 3,000 people attended his funeral in Manhattan including President & Hillary Clinton as well as Mayor Giuliani. Father Mychal's helmet was taken to Pope John Paul II. He has been honored in numerous ways all over the world. The next time my mom & I visit NYC, I've already told her we're taking a 30 minute taxi ride over to New Jersey so that I can visit his grave.

     Father Mychal's death is featured in several different documentaries on 9/11. One documentary was done on just him. The film is called, "Saint of 9/11". I couldn't think of a more appropriate title!! Thank you, Saint Mychal, for all that you did during your time on Earth & thank you for all you continue to do 10 years after your death.
Father Mychal's helmet being presented to Pope John Paul II

1 comment:

  1. Hello Lindsey~I'm b-a-c-k to makin' my visits (finally)! I just wanted to take a minute at this season of renewed hope and gratitude to personally thank you for your visit and kind words, especially with the loss of my kitty Angel. I wish I could convey to you how much your words meant to me.
    I look forward to stopping in again and getting better acquainted. I've no doubt there's more fun in store for us on this blogging journey.
    I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving surrounded with family and friends in celebration of all life's blessings.

    Sweet Wishes,