More than 200 people lined out last Sunday morning for the ninth annual Father Mychal Judge Walk of Remembrance in Manhattan.
The son of Irish immigrants, Judge, 68, was a Franciscan priest and much loved FDNY chaplain, who alongside the firemen he served raced from their midtown firehouse to the scene of the World Trade Center attacks. Not long after entering the North Tower, while administering the last rights, he lost his life and became the first recorded victim of 9/11.
The annual memorial began with a remembrance Mass in the church of St. Francis of Assisi, where Judge was stationed. Packed with firefighters, family and friends of the priest, the church’s gold embossed pillars were flanked by supporters wearing commemorative 10th anniversary “Mychal’s Message” t-shirts. Guests of honor included Judge’s twin sister Dympna Jessich, who came from her home in Maryland.
After the Mass, the large crowd assembled outside FDNY Engine 1/Ladder 24 on West 31st Street as FDNY Chaplain Christopher Keenan recited a prayer Judge had wrote.
"Lord, take me where you want me to go; let me meet who you want me to meet,” it said.
"Tell me what you want me to say -- and keep me out of your way," the chaplain who proceeded Judge prayed.
One of Judge’s closest friends, the hero NYPD Detective Steven McDonald, who was left paralyzed after being shot in the line of duty, led the marchers down Seventh Avenue. McDonald and his wife Patti originally began the remembrance walk in 2002.
Speaking to the Irish Voice, McDonald said Judge would have been touched by the hundreds of people who took part.
“I think he would laugh that everyone thinks of him in this way. He was very humble person,” said McDonald.
“He was a wonderful man and I don’t want people to forget him, his life and the people who died with him that day.
“I think he is with us. His sister is here with us and I think he would be happy that we are all here together,” McDonald added.
Freyda Markow from Brooklyn, who has participated in the walk for the past nine years, said there was a great sense of unity among the marchers.
“We are living through the same issues. It’s a struggle to get through it but we are all here together,” she told the Irish Voice.
“It may be ten years but he never lets us walk alone. I think that was his message that we all come together and help each other through hard times and tragedy.
“This is a man who deserves our support and that’s why I come every year.”
From Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Sharon Troelsch and her grandson were selling commemorative Mychal’s Message t-shirts along the route.
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Founded by Shannon Hickey, Mychal’s Message honors the life of the Franciscan friar by helping those in need.
“We have taken on his message and are taking it to the streets of New York. We sell the t-shirts to raise money to buy underwear and socks and coats for the homeless, and then we come back several times a year to hand those out at the breadline, in St. Francis of Assisi,” Troelsch told the Irish Voice.
Along the route the procession made stops at firehouses and police precincts. Judge’s bunker coat and chaplain helmet were unveiled at the NYC Fire Museum on Spring Street, where they are to be placed on permanent display.