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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

543 Lord, make me an instrument of your peace

Day 543 Friday, September 10th 2021

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:

(Franciscan Father Mychal Judge lost his life on 9/11)

As fate would have it, photographer Richard Drew, just 21 years old at the time, would be one of four press photographers present when Robert F. Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968. Close enough that Kennedy's blood splattered across the lapels of his jacket, Drew raised his camera in time to snap one of American history's most iconic images: Kennedy, felled by the bullets of a .22 revolver.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Drew was, once again, photographing bodies.

As part of a maternity fashion show that day, Drew was photographing pregnant women in New York City's Bryant Park. While on location, he got a call from his office telling him that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. Quickly gathering his things, he hopped on a subway car heading downtown, the only occupant on the train. Exiting at Chambers Street, he turned west. By then both towers of the World Trade Center were billowing smoke. Standing between a police officer and an emergency technician he stopped, tilted his camera to the sky and pressed the shutter.

Drew, a photographer with The Associated Press, reviewed the photo later on his laptop back at his office, as he told CBS News recently. The next morning, it appeared on Page 7 of The New York Times, and subsequently, in hundreds of newspapers all over the world. The man inside the frame, the "Falling Man" as he was called, was not identified.

The decision to leap from the burning building ensured the death of this anonymous victim. But the sleek silhouette cast by the "Falling Man" provoked an additional level of distress. His streamlined, headfirst descent, sliced through the air with a troubling efficiency. He had resigned to his fate, neither flailing nor struggling. Plummeting toward the ground like a missile, he made his way from falling to fallen.

Bookending this image is another unforgettable snapshot from that surreal day: the lifeless body of Fr. Mychal Judge.

New York firefighters and rescue workers are seen Sept. 11, 2001, carrying Franciscan Fr. Mychal Judge, a chaplain with the New York Fire Department, who died while giving last rites to a firefighter in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks that brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Sept. 11 this year marks the 20th anniversary of the attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people in New York City and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon.

Mychal served as a chaplain to the New York City Fire Department, in addition to belonging to a community of Franciscans with whom I had come to know and love. Impish and gregarious, he left few immune to his magnetic charism. With quintessential Irish swagger, his mere presence filled every room he entered. He was the very definition of larger than life.

That morning, as word spread of the explosions, he rushed to the scene, eager to support his NYFD congregation. After learning people were trapped in the wreckage, Mychal made a beeline for the north tower. Mychal was killed during the collapse of the south tower and subsequently classified as "Victim 0001," a fateful first in a day mired in tragedy.

So, let us mourn the dead. Let us grieve our loss. But let us also remember, on that same day, heroes were born. Ordinary men and women, just like those who frantically rushed into the towers to try and save Mychal, emerged as shining examples of bravery and grace. They put themselves at risk for one reason and one reason only — someone else. A blessing never to be forgotten.

The north and south towers of the former World Trade Center have become a cathedral in absentia for Americans living in a post 9/11 landscape, a palpable ghost of what once was. While One World Trade Center now gleams in their stead, a rebuilding of notable measure, the repair is still not complete. A suspicion and division, rooted in religious, cultural and political differences, still remains. Sadly so.

Nonetheless, that work can be left for another day.

This week is for remembering. When I think of Mychal now, I am reminded that his sacrifice was rooted in his Christian vocation. He remains a beacon for all of us not only for his heroism, not only for his instinctual response, but for the faith that inspired him.

He was a priest until the very end.

So, as we approach the 20th anniversary, we hold in our hearts the memories of all those whose lives were lost, whose innocence was taken or whose existence was forever changed at 7:59 a.m. when American Airlines Flight 11, bound for Los Angeles, lifted off the runway of Boston's Logan International Airport.

Peace Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


ANNOUNCEMENT for the Sunday's Celebration

- By Patti England

Our theme this evening is about the acknowledgment of the presence of the Holy Spirit in us and in all living things.

So many of our prayers and hymns seem to implore the Holy Spirit to ‘come to us’ – however I think most of us believe that the Spirit already lives in us – and so tonight we ask that we become more aware of the Spirit in us and in all living things. It seems appropriate, but somewhat accidental that we chose this theme during the Season of Creation, which began on World Day, September 1st and concludes on October 4th, the Feast of St. Francis.

The Season of Creation is an annual celebration where Christians around the world join together to pray, reflect and take action to protect our common home. This season offers us a precious opportunity to pause in the midst of our busy day-to-day lives and contemplate the fabric of life into which we are woven.

Today's reflection by Anne Gardner

Anne Gardner is an a native Bostonian, Episcopal minister and freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter: @AnneGardner2020.

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