Remembering FDNY Chaplain Father Mychal Judge

Father Mychal Judge, an FDNY chaplain, smiles for a photo in a formal FDNY outfit.
Father Mychal Judge, FDNY chaplain. Courtesy of the FDNY Family Assistance Unit.

FDNY chaplain Father Mychal Judge’s compassion extended far beyond the fire department. Judge made a point of remembering personal details about each person he met and providing all with spiritual support. From New York City’s mayor, to the homeless, to those most in need during the AIDS crisis, Judge was there offering his help.

As the 9/11 Memorial Museum prepares to welcome Pope Francis on Sept. 25, we look back at the inspirational life of Father Judge. The Brooklyn-born Catholic priest and Franciscan friar served as an FDNY chaplain from 1992 until his death on Sept. 11, 2001.

“He loved the firemen and they loved him . . . for him they were the purest religious order,” said newspaper reporter and friend Michael Daly. “And his feeling being that they were ordinary people, but when that alarm came in that kind of grace descended upon them.”

Judge was at the North Tower command center administering prayers on 9/11. After the South Tower collapsed, he was fatally injured and needed to be carried out of the building. NYPD Lt. Jose Rodriguez preformed last rites on the beloved chaplain moments before the North Tower collapsed. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner lists him as the first causality of the 9/11 attacks.

Over 3,000 people, including President Bill Clinton attended Judge’s funeral. At a special memorial service, mourners sharing stories of the unconventional and gregarious man remarked that only Judge could bring such a diverse crowd together.

His friend Vina Drennan remembers, “He just saw us as children of one God. . . There was such a Christ-like presence to him. Mychal Judge smiled, and laughed, and sang. And just had such a joy of life that you really almost feel that if you gotta go through hell, it’s nice to have Mychal Judge at your side.”

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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