Father Mychal Judge died on September 11, 2001. Five fire fighters carried his body and laid it at the foot of the church's altar. As these men moved down the street, the first tower collapsed.
The following is an excerpt from the eulogy delivered at Judge's funeral.
"Mychal Judge’s body was the first one released from Ground Zero. His death certificate has the number one on the top … and I meditated on that fact of the thousands of people that we are going to find out who perished in that terrible holocaust … Why was Mychal Judge number one? And I think I know the reason. I hope you’ll agree with me. Mychal’s goal and purpose in life at that time was to bring the firemen to the point of death, so they would be ready to meet their maker. There are between two and three hundred firemen buried there, the commissioner told us last night.
"Mychal Judge could not have ministered to them all. It was physically impossible in this life but not in the next. And I think that if he were given his choice, he would prefer to have happened what actually happened. He passed through the other side of life, and now he can continue doing what he wanted to do with all his heart. And the next few weeks, we’re going to have names added, name after name of people, who are being brought out of that rubble. And Mychal Judge is going to be on the other side of death … to greet them instead of sending them there. And he’s going to greet them with that big Irish smile … he’s going to take them by the arm and the hand and say, “Welcome, I want to take you to my Father.” … And so, he can continue doing in death what he couldn’t do in life …
"And so, this morning … we come to bury Mike Judge’s body but not his spirit. We come to bury his mind but not his dreams. We come to bury his voice but not his message. We come to bury his hands but not his good works. We come to bury his heart but not his love. Never his love."
(AP photo of messages scrawled in debris dust on the ladder truck door of Ladder Company 24 join a growing memorial on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001 in New York Cit. Ladder Company 24 lost 7 firemen in the attack, including Fire Chaplain Father Mychal Judge)