Category: Archive

Remembering those who went where angels fear to tread

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Frank Cull

Sept. 11 was a day that challenged our nation. A grateful city will remember the wave after wave of determined firefighters advancing toward the flaming Twin Towers. Everyone died a little when 343 “brothers” and their beloved Chaplain Rev. Father Mychal F. Judge, made the supreme sacrifice in saving the lives of more than 25,000 people.

Firefighter and citizen alike stood around Ground Zero with a private sense of the city’s emptiness that came late that bright, sunny morning. It’s still hard to comprehend that 145 of the fallen firefighters were members of the FDNY Emerald Society.

It was many things to many citizens but, all can agree, it was an act of war.

It was news that Rev. Father Christopher Keenan had been named FDNY chaplain to fill the boots of Father Mychal Judge. Father Judge had succeeded Rev. Julian Deeken, another Franciscan Friar, a spiritual guru with an infectious smile who also left his mark on the FDNY as an outstanding cleric and beloved chaplain.

It was Siena College remembering one of their own. Franciscan-run Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., has instituted the Father Mychal Judge Scholarship for sons and daughters of firefighters killed in the rescue effort.

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It was Father Mychal gracing the cover of Siena, the college magazine for alumni and friends of the upstate N.Y. Franciscan college. Judge had served the college in 1976 as special assistant to then President Hugh Hines, OFM. The title of the magazine piece was “Instrument of Peace.”

It was Firefighter and FDNY Emerald Patrick Burns presenting Pope John Paul II with Fr. Judge’s white helmet. “I offer a warm welcome to the delegation from the New York City Fire Department, so many of whose members lost their lives in the terrorist attack of Sept. 11,” the pope said at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. “May Almighty God grant the bereaved families consolation and peace.”

It was U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer from New York announcing a Medal of Freedom for Father Judge, the firefighter’s friar. Schumer remarked: “Nothing could better symbolize our dedication to Father Judge and what he stood for, and the firefighters of New York and what they stood for, than awarding [him] the U.S. Medal of Freedom.” We agree.

It was the Waterways Co. whose vessels traverse the waters of New York Harbor naming their newest ferry in their fleet after Father Mychal.

It was Father Judge taking pen in hand and writing “Mychal’s Prayer”. “Lord, take me where You want me to go; Let me meet who You want me to meet; Tell me what You want me to say,

And keep me out of Your way.”

It was the good padre recently being remembered in Ireland, where he was posthumously honored at the People of the Year ceremonies held in Dublin.

It was a midtown street being renamed Father Mychal F. Judge Way in honor of the fallen cleric. The street is 31st Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, on that block is the St. Francis of Assisi Friary (his home base) and directly across the street is his favorite firehouse, Engine Co. 1 and Ladder Co. 24.

Father Judge would be embarrassed by all the hoopla. Yet he remains a symbol of our faith, heritage, determination and the ability to get knocked down and get right up again.

It was remembering Port Authority Police Emerald Donald McIntyre. Ten officers from the Port Authority Police Department flew out to Minnesota for the Vikings-Giants game in honor of one of their fallen comrades, Officer Donnie McIntyre, a lifelong Vikings fan. The officers brought with them the flag that was recovered from the World Trade Center, which was unfurled during pregame ceremonies. The same flag flew at Yankee Stadium during the World Series.

It was Joe Ginley, retired from “the job,” burying his son John, one of his four sons who wear FDNY blue and Emerald green. Robert, Timothy and Joseph, all in uniform, were there to comfort their Dad and Mom, Elizabeth, at the funeral Mass.

It was Firefighter Fred Ill, proudly bearing the same name as his dad and following in his father’s footsteps in the FDNY and Emerald Society. Eulogizing his beloved father, his closing words were: “It’s OK, Mom, we’ll be alright.” Captain Fred Il, Sr. of Ladder Co. 2 had gained national prominence when he rescued a citizen who had been run over by a subway train in midtown Manhattan.

It was Michael Daly, the Daily News columnist, eulogizing his good friend Patrick J. Brown, the skipper of Ladder Co. 3. A much decorated fire officer, Brown was buried from St. Patrick’s Cathedral on his 49th birthday.

It was remembering Firefighter Robert (Bobby) McMahon, a tall strapping, handsome lad from Ladder Co. 20 who answered the last alarm on Nine-One-One. McMahon is survived by his beloved wife, Julie, who is expecting their second child, and his son Matthew. Little Matthew will remember his dad as one who gave his life so that others might live.

It was the East Side of Manhattan remembering the Bravest. The Victory Cafe sponsored a block party and benefit on the Upper East Side for the FDNY Family Fund. On hand for the festivities and performing were Bandmaster John Begley and the Men of the Pipes and Drums from the NYC Department of Sanitation Emerald Society Bagpipe Band. Representing the FDNY Emerald Society Bagpipe Band and piping out the tunes of glory were Brian Meagher, Bill Duffy Jr., and Chris Walsh.

It was during the World Series that N.Y. Yankee manager Joe Torre wore a bracelet with Fire Chief Ray Downey’s name engraved on it. Torre received the bracelet from Downey’s family members at the benefit for New York at Madison Square Garden. “I have worn it every day. It’s more out of respect for him than superstition for me,” Torre said.

It was Frances Scanlon remembering Timmy Stackpole, who was Irishman of the Year for the Catholic Charities’ Great Irish Fair. She wrote: “On Sept. 11, as the officer-in-command of Ladder Co. 103, Stackpole racing one final time, did what he had always done. He went where angels fear to tread. In so doing, he exemplified the spirit of the overarching mission of Catholic Charities — being angels of mercy, motivation and magnanimity.”

It was remembering Firefighter Michael Roberts of Engine Co. 214, who was remembered at St. Thomas More Church in Breezy Point, a community that was devastated by the World Trade Center calamity. It was remembering another firefighter, Michael E. Roberts (no relation), of Ladder Co. 35, who was remembered at the Dominican Chapel and mourned throughout the tiny hamlet of Pearl River, another community torn apart by the attack on America.

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