By Emily Drooby
Hundreds of people marched in silence while color guard commands and footsteps were the only sounds. It was an eerie scene in such a loud city as this group honored the life of Catholic priest and American hero, Father Mychal Judge.
Father James Hansen calls him a role model.
“Father Mychal Judge and what he did on September 11, I think is exactly what priests do,” he said. “They lay their life down for their flock.”
As an FDNY chaplain, on September 11, Father Judge left St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan for the Twin Towers. He spent his time there, providing comfort and prayers for New York’s bravest. Firefighter Sal Cassano was with him.
“We looked at each other, and a head nod to each other, and said it’s going to be a tough day, Father Mike, I think we are going to need a lot more chaplains, but he just went about his business,” Sal said. “He was going to shepard all of us up to heaven one day. And that’s what he was doing that day, taking care of his flock.”
Father Judge gave his life for his flock after being injured at the site. His body was eventually found and brought to St. Peter’s Church.
The Walk of Remembrance starts at St. Francis of Assisi Church near Penn Station with a Mass and the rosary, explained walk organizer, John Bates.
“We say the rosary, which is what Father Mychal Judge was doing that morning in the towers,” John said. “We do that to honor him and of course honor Mary.”
Then they walk almost three miles, all the way down to St Peter’s Church in the Financial District. Throughout the walk, they make stops along the way to honor the lives lost that day and the lives lost to illnesses since.
Marcher Bob Hickey was a life-long friend. He now helps his family run the non-profit Mychal’s Message. It was started by his granddaughter when she was only 11. She had a close relationship with Father Judge, formed while she was battling a deadly illness.
Bob still remembers finding out his friend was gone.
“Yeah, I was numb, what had happened it was like disbelief,” Bob said. “I knew he would be there, but you never think a friend is going to die, you just don’t…when I found out exactly how it happened, I wasn’t surprised. He’s there helping people, he’s there doing what he always did.”
The walk was also started by another friend of Father Judge, NYPD Detective Steven McDonald who was paralyzed after being shot on the job. Det. McDonald died in 2017, over 30 years after sustaining his injuries.
Even though Det. McDonald is no longer on this earth, this walk and memorial he created for his friend, carries the torch.