For the 17th year a mass and walk honoring the first official victim of Sept 11, 2011, terrorist attacks took place, starting from the FDNY House of Engine 1 / Ladder 24 by Father Mychal Judge's own Church of St Francis of Assisi.
The rain was falling, but the typical Scottish weather in New York City did not put off the 1,200 people from participating in the 17th Father Mychal Judge Walk of Remembrance.
The inaugural walk took place in 2002, one year after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre. The day, known worldwide as 9/11, took the life of Father Mychal Judge, Chaplain of the New York City Fire Department. While carrying out his duties, he died in the North Tower, when the South Tower fell.
Registered as the first official victim - 0001 - some say that he was taken to welcome the other 342 members of the FDNY to heaven that day.
Starting with the Rosary, followed by Mass at The Church of St Francis of Assisi, the Walk begins at the FDNY House of Engine 1 / Ladder 24, West 31st Street. Unfortunately, the prayer asking for the rain to stop to the walk founder, Detective First Grade Steven McDonald, New York City Police Department, who died in 2017, did not work.
The walk follows the route that Father Judge took that day, pausing several times along the way, remembering the FDNY, the NYPD, the Port Authority Police Department and all who lost their lives, with the conclusion at St Peter’s Church, where the body of Father Judge was laid before the altar.
A small number of participants of the walk had the privilege of meeting the much-loved Priest. One of them was Father Chris Keenan, the current Chaplain of the FDNY, who took on the role after the passing of his dear friend and it’s evident that Father Keenan still feels the pain of the loss.
Always, Father Judge put others first, no matter their race, color, age, sexual orientation or religion. After an evening meal with a friend, in which Father Judge has gifted a jacket, the friend was comforted to know the jacket would keep the Priest who never asked for anything for himself, warm while walking in the snow that was falling. When the two next met, the friend asked how was the jacket. Father Judge confessed that the jacket was no longer in his possession as he gave it to a street person not long after leaving the meal.
The walk is organized by a small voluntary dedicated team, which includes the Walk Team Leader, Captain John D. Bates, a retired maritime pilot. Captain Bates who was present at the first Walk with one of his closest friends, Detective First Grade Steven McDonald, who himself was a long-term friend of Father Judge, and who also identified his body, suggested praying for Father Judge. “It kind of took off from there” explains Captain Bates. “And here we are, 17 years later. What people don’t realize is that people are dying every week from 9/11 related illnesses and over 1000 people have yet to be identified.”
Every year, the Walk has new faces of all ages taking part. The high number of children who walk was not even born when the attacks happened, but to be included in the Walk gives them the opportunity to learn who Father Judge was and also, some may say, more importantly, learn about 9/11 itself.
We walk together.
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