Premiere screening of the documentary film Remembering Mychal, about the late FDNY Chaplain Father Mychal Judge, the first victim of 9/11, was held on October 26 at Scandinavia House in New York City. The film is directed by Brendan Fay and edited by Ed Caraballo.
According to a press release, the film recalls the Month’s Mind gathering after the attacks on 9/11 where people shared their memories and stories of Judge.
On October 11, 2001, a month after Franciscan Chaplain Judge died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, friends gathered to grieve, find hope and remember their priest and friend. In stories, prayer and song, parishioners from New Jersey and New York, recovering alcoholics, firefighters, Franciscans, people with AIDS, Irish musicians and the LGBTQ community unwrapped the life and heart of Judge.
In tenderness, tears and laughter a compassionate and human Father Mychal emerged, the people’s Mychal Judge.
"On this 20th anniversary of 9/11 the film helps us remember our priest and good friend Father Mychal Judge. Compassion was his way. He had a heart as big as New York,” said director and producer Brendan Fay.
Featured voices in the film include Malachy McCourt, Pete Hamill (1935-2020), Mychal McNicholas, Michael Daly, Tommy Ryan (FDNY), Jose Rodriguez (NYPD), Debi Rabbene, Larry Boes and Mary Somoza. Music is by Mary Courtney with Morning Star, along with renowned Irish musicians and composers Cormac Breatnach, Jack Harrison and Michael James Regan.
"On 9/11, a day of death, hate and profound grief, Mychal Judge is a face of compassion and hope for humanity,” said Fay.
On 9/11 Mychal Judge, as he did every day of his Franciscan life, went towards the place of pain and suffering as a bearer of hope and comfort. For so many he is a saint of 9-11.
It was an emotional evening for the premiere screening, with humanity, tears, courage, love and laughter. The theater was packed.
There were words of thanks to Fay from New York City Council Member Danny Dromm.
The program opened by celebrating Malachy McCourt who recently turned 90. Fay thanked him for his community leadership 20 years ago when he emceed the Month’s Mind for Judge.
Tom Moulton presented Malachy with cake and flowers. Courtney led the singing of happy birthday. There was laughter as McCourt told of years of friendship and sobriety with Judge, and soon he had everyone singing "Wild Mountain Thyme."
Courtney sang a moving rendition of Dave McGilton's ballad in honor of Judge, “The Sky Belongs to Dreamers.”
There was a stillness in the theater with the opening scenes and Judge’s voice from September 10, 2001. It was from the rededication and blessing of the Bronx firehouse, Engine73/Ladder 42.
“You do what God has called you to do. You show up. You put one foot in front of another. You get on the rig and you go out and you do the job – which is a mystery,” he said.
This would be his final benediction and homily before his death the following day on 9/11.
The film weaves archival footage, images and words of Judge in between stories of his years as a Franciscan parish priest, outreach to grieving families of Flight 800, AIDS ministry, his advocacy for the LGBTQ community, his love of sobriety and his dedication as chaplain to the New York City Fire Department.
After the screening there were heartfelt stories of 9/11 and Judge as Fay and Caraballo were joined on the stage by retired firefighter Tommy Ryan, Mychal McNicholas, Tom Duane, Kevin Scullin, Tom Moulton, Jose Rodriguez and Debi Rabbene's son Michael and sister Laurie Heinz.
Caraballo spoke of the emotion of editing the film through the pandemic and now being on the New York stage together in person.
Fay said, “With tenderness and gratitude I am moved to be sharing Mychal's story with a new generation who have grown up since 9-11.
“This is a shared production. People opened their hearts, shared their stories, photographs and letters from Fr. Mychal. I thank all whose love and support helped bring Mychal 's story to the New York screen. This is a first step in a journey for the film. Within days of the New York premiere Fay, who also directed Taking a Chance on God, the award winning film on pioneer priest John McNeill, received calls and emails from around the U.S. and Ireland, Poland, Mexico.
“I look forward to bringing the inspiring story of Father Mychal Judge to festivals, to communities and schools,” Fay added.
Watch the trailer for "Remembering Mychal" here: