While it has been over a decade, the memories and the wounds of 9/11 remain fresh.
There are so many iconic images from the horrific events surrounding 9/11: Firefighters raising a flag from a makeshift pole, a cross formed from steel girders torn apart in the collapse of the World Trade Center, or the smoldering remains of an aircraft in a field in Pennsylvania.
However, there’s one image that never fails to move me: It’s that of the lifeless priest being carried by his brother firefighters.
He would be declared the first fatality of 9/11….Victim #0001. Fr. Mychal Judge, a chaplain for FDNY, fearlessly ran into those buildings so as to give comfort and last rites to the victims. This act of bravery would ultimately cost him his life.
Fr. Mychal was all that is good about America.
The son of Irish immigrants grew up during the Great Depression. He would see his father struggle through illness and later succumb to that illness at a young age. The circumstances of Mychal’s childhood growing up in poverty profoundly shaped him. It led him to seminary where he would go on to a life of service for others.
He cared for the homeless, the hungry, immigrants, alcoholics, the grieving, people with AIDS, gays, lesbians, and those rejected by Church and society.
Perhaps Fr. Mychal did all these things because he too was a recovering alcoholic….was gay…grew up poor. Perhaps it’s because he was a Christian and that’s what the Gospels call all of us believers to do.
To be sure, Fr. Mychal was uniquely American: An ordinary person… from ordinary means….He did extraordinary things.
It’s often said there’s no greater love than to lay one’s life down for another. Mychal Judge did that throughout his life and in the ultimate way on 9/11.
On this Anniversary of 9/11 we remember the victims. We pray for them and for their families.
May we also honor them by using our talents and working with each other – rather than against – for the betterment of our nation.
May God Bless our United States of America.