New York Area Remembers 9/11 With Annual Walk, Masses, Bell Tolling

Octavio Duran, OFM In the Headlines

NEW YORK — Franciscan Mychal Judge, OFM, and the tragedy of 9/11 were remembered by friars, family and friends at the 9/11 Father Mychal F. Judge Walk of Remembrance on Sept. 9. As he has done each year since the founding of the event, New York  Police Department detective 1st Grade Steven McDonald led  Sunday’s walk.

New York  Police Department detective
1st Grade Steven McDonald, left, with
Fr. Mychal Judge’s twin sister Dympna Judge Jessich, right, during the walk of  Walk of Remembrance.

The sixth annual Walk of Remembrance began by praying the Holy Rosary in the lower church of St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street followed by a Mass celebrated by FDNY chaplain Christopher Keenan, OFM.  Friars Jerome Massimino, OFM, Hugh Hines, OFM, and Ronald Pecci, OFM, concelebrated. Mychal’s sister Dympna Jessich, shown in photo, Chief Salvatore Cassano, and Chief Patrick McNally of the New York City Fire Department, as well as detective McDonald and his wife were among the 300 people who attended the Mass.

Words of Gratitude
In his welcome remarks, Jerome, at left, said:  “On behalf of the Franciscan friars, our pastoral staff and our Partners in Ministry, I sincerely welcome you to this liturgy and the 6th Anniversary of the Fr. Mychal Judge Memorial Walk.  In particular, I welcome and thank Detective Stephen McDonald and his wife, The Honorable Patti McDonald, Mayor of Malverne, N.Y., who began this annual celebration collaborating with the members of the NYC police precincts and fire houses and the Fire Family Transport Foundation along with John Bates and Lt. Billy Schilliger.  We are so grateful to David Schlatter, OFM, who came all the way from Washington and Delaware to grace us with the ‘The Bells of Remembrance.’

“I also am delighted to welcome Dympna Judge Jessich, the twin sister of Fr. Mychal who, at 74 years old, I know, would be looking far better now than her brother if he were alive today!  Our gospel today reminds us that the call to discipleship demands that we renounce all of our possessions, even our own lives, pick up our cross and follow Jesus Christ.  As I reflected on these words in preparation for my own homily, my mind and heart went to all of us who gather to support each other and to grieve for the lives who have been lost.  We, yet again, six years later commend them to our loving God.  We pray for anyone who lost a loved one in the terrorist attack on our city and nation.

With deep gratitude that seems to come from the very depths of our hearts, we give thanks for the many professionals and volunteers who risked their lives or have given their lives for the sake of the thousands upon thousands of people who continue to live at this very moment because of their courage and dedication.  I personally offer thanks for the gift of all of you who are the precious gift that makes St. Francis of Assisi the most beloved church in New York City, truly a house of prayer, a place of peace where all people are always welcome and no one is forgotten.“

FDNY_wineAfter Mass, approximately 500 people gathered in front of Engine 1 and Ladder 24 where Christopher, right, prayed and remembered those from Engine 1 who lost their lives during the 2001 attacks. From there, MChrisK3611cDonald led participants down Seventh Avenue, to St. Peter’s Church.

Participants of the walk stopped at various firehouses and police precincts where Chris prayed Psalms and called the names of the fallen ones of each house or precinct.  David Schlatter brought the Bells of Remembrance from Wilmington, Del., and followed the walk as he has done in the past. At engine 24, Christopher added the names of two firefighters, Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia, who died August 18 while responding to a fire at an abandoned skyscraper next to ground zero in Lower Manhattan.

Unlike other years, the walk ended at St. Peter’s Catholic Church near the World Trade Center site, where Mychal’s body was placed soon after he died on Sept. 11.  McDonald, who was injured in the line of duty in 1986, took the opportunity to thank people of all faiths who made this year’s walk a memorable one.

Chris sang the Franciscan blessing and extended an invitation to participate in next year’s walk, always scheduled for the Sunday before Sept. 11.

Annual Bell Tolling

bells3723The annual bell tolling on Sept. 11 was held this year in lower Manhattan at the corner of Church and Murray streets. David Schlatter initiated “The Remembrance Project” after returning to St. Paul’s Friary in Wilmington from Mychal Judge’s wake in 2001. The bell-tolling service honors Mychal and the other New York firefighters who died in the World Trade Center attacks.

The bells are placed at each of the sites or in a general area where the terrorists struck, according to Phil Jacobs, who has photographed past events.  The bells, with a combined weight of 13,000 lbs., are mounted to steel frames and placed on four 14′ x 8’ flatbed trailers. They are then hauled by pickup trucks to the memorial sites. They toll every 10 seconds on Sept. 11 for each victim at the three locations beginning at the time of each plane crash.

In the first  Bells of Remembrance ceremony,  held in 2003, those who gathered outside St. Francis Church manually tolled the bell by pulling a rope that triggered its clapper,  said  Jacobs. That ceremony went on for nearly eight hours, representing the estimated 2,797 WTC casualties.

Mass of Remembrance
This year, on the morning of Sept. 11, a Mass of Remembrance was held in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in midtown Manhattan, across the street from  the firehouse. Chris Keenan presided, and Jerome and Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, concelebrated.  In the congregation were members of Battalion 7 as well as Dympna Judge and staff members of the West 31st Street Church and the Provincial Office.


Below, before the Mass began, firefighters participated in a moment of silence on the cloudy morning,  Before the Mass, firefighters participated in a moment of silence on  the cloudy morning, a stark contrast to the blue skies on that Tuesday six years ago.


— Br. Octavio is a staff member of the Province’s Communications Office.