The corpse that we saw became officially victim number 00001, given to Father Mychal Judge, a Chaplain to the Fire Department, who we were told, met his end early that morning while giving last rights to a stricken fireman, Daniel Suhr, both of them being fatally hit by falling bodies or debris.
After the collapse of the first tower, a group of firemen and others, removed Father Judge's body from the lobby of the second tower, and carried it out into the street, where ultimately it found temporary refuge in Saint Paul's church. Perhaps acts similar to this took place all over that day, going unrecorded and unheralded. But it was Father Judge's singular fortune to serve a passive role in extremis, as a presentation case of a sacrificial victim.
Despite the catastrophic conditions prevailing on the trade center plaza at that particular moment, great honor and reverence were on display, as the men fashioned a makeshift litter out of a chair in order to bear Father Judge away. Ashen and slumping, his death registered before our eyes, galvanizing us to our new emotional reality. The image of Father Judge being borne aloft remains for many people, the iconic image creating meaning out of the suffering of September 11th.
I suppose it is in the nature of these things that a professional photojournalist from Reuters would be operating nearby, there to take the wrenching images of tragic loss and heroic response, images which would wend their way around the world within hours. That photographer, Shannon Stapleton, did much good work in the vicinity---some of it seemingly of a privileged nature, as private government law enforcement agencies struggled to get their bearings back.
Much more surprising perhaps, was the added presence of an MSNBC film crew on the scene. Whatever report they filed has long been unavailable to the public, but a small screen grab exists depicting the coverage, so it is assumed reports were filed, perhaps repeatedly. I know of no other example of a film crew working this close in to the towers---make that tower, for by this time, the first tower is gone.
Five men are named in the record, for their roles in the widely distributed iconic image of Father Judge's portage. Two other images exist of the scene. They show three other men helping at different times, but the record is silent as to their identities. Apparently, they were an ad hoc group from various agencies, and from civilian life, who had survived the fall of the first tower huddled together in the north tower's lobby. What official business it was for them to be there in the first place, isn't clear.
55-year-old Firefighter Christian Waugh, who retired two weeks after 9/11; William Cosgrove, then a lieutenant in the Manhattan Traffic Task Force and more recently working for the New York City public school's investigative arm; Zachary Vause, a NYC fireman with Engine Co. 21, who was detached from his temporary unit that morning; Kevin Allen, of the Office of Emergency Management, who says he joined up with them outside later; and John Maguire, a Goldman Sachs employee who had come over from Wall Street to lend a hand. It isn't known if the five had any previous associations.
Firefighter Christian Waugh, former NYPD Lt. William Cosgrove, John Maguire and Kevin Allen who, aided by firefighter Zachary Vause, carried the body of fire Chaplain Mychal Judge away from the towers.
In another image, what appears to be Chief Pfeifer and a civilian are participating.
Because of the nature of the destruction---the way in which the towers dissolved---much of the loss of life that occurred that day appeared simply to vanish. The rescuing of Father Judge's body played an important psychological role in understanding and processing the enormous losses that were taking place. Not only was the single corpse we were to see from that day presented unenshrouded, he was displayed mockingly sitting up as if on a throne.
In the death of a dearly beloved religious figure core to the mythology of the fire department, the best among us were able to access and deal with feelings by way of projection, or transference, onto the figure of Father Judge, or his rescuers. Since he died, for instance, dozens of books have been written about him, and a serious effort is underway seeking to canonize him as a saint, so the significant role he plays in the emotional lives of survivors continues.
The worst among us used the image of the defeated Father as justification for a religious revenge.
So, it is difficult to imagine the experience of September 11th, without Father Judge's part in it---as difficult as it is to imagine that he played a role by sheer happenstance or coincidence. Certainly, many pieces had to be in place for events to unfold in the fashion in which they did, and in many ways, the story of Father Judge fails the sniff test of authenticity.
Many questions were asked in the aftermath of the tragedy, and at the one-year anniversary mark an article was published in the New York Post, which interviewed the surviving heroes who rescued Father Judge. (Reposted at Firehouse.com on 9/9/02, and still available at archive.org --with my archive of their archive here,)
Father Mike: What Really Happened By Neil Graves Courtesy The New York PostThe article raises more questions than it answers. Firefighter Waugh, who was in the lobby as aide to Deputy Chief Peter Hayden, says he saw Father Judge talking to film-makers Jules and Gedeon Naudet right before the collapse. Whatever blew in to strike and kill Judge must have been specific to the back of Father Judge's skull. The film-makers were back on their feet within moments shooting in the thick haze of dust that obscured the view.
About a half-dozen rescue workers were suddenly stuck in a smoky nook in the north tower lobby, with debris everywhere and the floor still quivering from the collapse of the south tower.
William Cosgrove, then a lieutenant with the NYPD, was gasping for air in the choking darkness after being tossed across the floor by the tremendous thud of 110 stories falling to the ground.
"I said, ‘Everybody, let's just hold hands so we know where each other are,'" Cosgrove recalled recently.
"I tripped over something. I said, 'There's a body over here.' A fireman showed the light on the person on the floor. And he said, 'Oh, my God - it's Father Mike.'"
The Rev. Mychal Judge, the Fire Department's much-beloved chaplain, had died doing the job he was born to do - ministering to others: He had just given the last rites to another victim.
Judge loved his firefighters so much that he lived just across from Ladder Co. 24/Engine Co. 10, in the Franciscan friary on West 31st Street.
And the men that day would love him back, eventually placing his body at the altar of St. Peter's Church, a block from the World Trade Center, after he was retrieved by five heroes.
Moments before the ghastly discovery, firefighter Christian Waugh of Ladder Co. 5 watched the priest talk to a video team when matters were bad but not yet catastrophic.
"Father Judge was standing a few feet away, giving an interview to [documentary-makers Jules and Gedeon Naudet]," Waugh remembered.
"When the plane hit the second building, we felt it. The pressure threw us to the ground."
Before the collapse, Zachary Vause, of Engine Co. 21 on East 40th, had taken the subway downtown, dressed in full gear, because the engine company he was on loan to, Truck 7, had taken off without him. Upon emerging from the Brooklyn Bridge station, Vause ran smack into a tidal wave of people running the other way.
"I was swimming through people on my way in," he said.
He arrived at the scene just in time to get his helmet jarred off his head from the force of the south tower's collapse. Lost in the pitch-black north tower lobby, Vause could see none of the others as Cosgrove asked them to huddle.
"Next thing I know, somebody was screaming, ‘Over here, over here,'" Vause said. "[Judge] was taking his last breath.
"We opened his shirt. I tried pumping out his chest with my chest pump. He came up - for one last gasp. I checked his pulse and there was nothing."
The men crawled out of the area, only to find they were facing an out-of-commission escalator that led to a balcony area. They started toting the body.
"Everybody had a leg or an arm, but he was so heavy," Cosgrove said.
Kevin Allen, of the Office of Emergency Management, came all the way from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, that morning and reported to the OEM command bus on the far side of the Church Street Post Office.
"We felt this huge shake, the whole ground was shaking," said Allen. "I guess that's when the south tower came down. We got in the bus, behind the building, and that's what saved us - that post-office building."
The OEM team fanned out and were stunned to hear the voice of their boss, Calvin Drayton, the first deputy commissioner, calling for help over the radio. But no one could discern his location.
On his way searching for Drayton, Allen saw three men carrying a body. He pitched in.
"I didn't know he was a priest at that time," Allen admitted. "It wasn't 'til we got to Church Street and I saw the white collar that I knew. I said, 'Oh, my God.'" John Maguire, a Goldman Sachs employee who had come from Wall Street to help, saw the four struggling toward him.
"I asked them if they needed any help," said Maguire, a West Point grad who is presently an inactive Army captain.
"These guys were really exhausted. They had on so much gear and I didn't."
The team then accepted a godsend on the balcony overlooking West and Vesey.
"People were jumping in and out trying to help and someone gave us a chair," Vause said. "The core of us kept on carrying him in the chair."
The team finally got Judge to an ambulance and laid him down.
Having taken him that far, someone felt they ought to give the priest a proper sendoff.
"I asked an officer to get a priest," Cosgrove said. "But no one could find one. Somebody said, ‘If you're Catholic, you can give him last rites.' So myself and a young cop gave last rites."
Right after that came the other sickening eruption. "As we covered him up, the north tower came down, and we started to run," Waugh said.
The Rev. Mychal Judge wound up on the altar of St. Peter's, carried by a posse of firefighters. Cosgrove wanted to make sure to set the record straight.
"Some people thought we brought him there," said Cosgrove, who started a new position with the public school's investigative arm last month.
"We didn't take him there. We left him next to the ambulance. That was the last time I saw him."
The self-dispatched fireman Vause, says it was he who checked for a pulse and performed chest compression without success, having become attached to the group when somebody yelled out, "over here!" He doesn't say whether he checked for a head injury. In a scene in the Naudet film, someone narrates,
"And then I realized it was Father Judge. We saw him lying at the base of the escalator where we were, and I removed his white collar and I opened up his shirt and remember checking for his pulse and realizing in that time that he was gone."Kevin Allen, the misplaced OEM worker who was hunting for his boss when he decided to pitch in and help, says he wasn't motivated by Catholicism. "I didn't know he was a priest at that time," Allen admitted. "It wasn't 'til we got to Church Street and I saw the white collar that I knew. I said, ‘Oh, my God.' So unless Vause reattached the collar, this gratuitous detail is a lie.
The self-dispatched traffic cop Cosgrove, says that he stumbled upon the body, and that inaugurated his participation. However, a a scene in the Naudet brother's film captures a moment when we see a booted foot---part of the body of Father Judge, we are told, which is being carried---set down by four firemen, ("Put it down! Put it down!") We also see another fireman carrying a chair in preparation, we are led to believe, to transfer Judge. Other uniformed firemen, including two chiefs, stand by, with no sign of Cosgrove in the picture.
But Vause says Judge wasn't sat up in a chair until they were outside:
"The team then accepted a godsend on the balcony overlooking West and Vesey.
People were jumping in and out trying to help and someone gave us a chair...The core of us kept on carrying him in the chair."
The Observer "Heroes of Ground Zero" Feb. 17, 2002
Firefighter Christian Waugh, 55, helped to carry the body of Father Mychal Judge, the Fire Department chaplain, out from Tower One of the World Trade CenterCosgrove and Waugh both use the same excuse: that Father Judge died of unknown causes while they weren't looking during the tumult of the collapse of the first tower; either getting hit by debris, or as Waugh supposes, perhaps dying of a heart attack. Neither does a thing to help Judge out, nor do they say if anybody else was hurt. At least fireman Vause puts in an effort, or at least says he did when telling the story.
Everywhere I go now, someone mentions this picture. I can't get away from it. The Oprah Winfrey Show wanted the five of us in the photograph to come down, but none of us went. My family and friends try not to talk about it, but it's always being brought up at work. It's even been nominated for a Pulitzer prize. Ironically, at the time I was so mad that it was taken. I was telling the photographer to leave us alone, to get out of there. I didn't like the idea of it, but the guy was just doing his job, like I was doing mine.
Father Judge was standing about 20ft away from us in the lobby, and when the second plane hit, the debris from the second building came down and blew into the lobby of Tower One. The dust and the wind blew us over and everything went jet black. As it started to lift, I found Father Judge laying there. I think he died of a heart attack. We put him in a chair and carried him out.
His nephew says if it wasn't for Father Judge the five of us would have been trapped in the building and we would have been killed. So he got us out of the building by dying. When you look at it that way, it helps to have a reason why I'm out, why I'm walking around.
My firehouse lost 11 men and the house I was working with that day lost 14. That's 25 guys that I know right off the bat. I wake up at night and still see the different faces of missing firefighters coming into the building and walking by me in the lobby. So long as they're still digging down there and people are still missing, it makes it harder. They're still finding people; I understand they found two bodies the other day.
"We opened his shirt. I tried pumping out his chest with my chest pump. He came up - for one last gasp. I checked his pulse and there was nothing."This level of callousness would be disturbing in a gang member, let alone in a band of brothers. The two men cared enough to haul the apparently not-so-light Judge outside, and to exert themselves on the stairs for photographs and videos, but then what? According to Cosgrove in the Post article above, "We left him next to the ambulance." In other words---they left Father Judge lying in the gutter outside of the ambulance. Understandable, perhaps, if the second tower suddenly started to come down very fast and they had to sprint to safety to save their hides, but they had time for an impromptu prayer service. And if other firemen came back as soon as they could to care for their fallen comrade, why couldn't they? Failure to follow through belies any genuine motive for hauling Father Judge past the cameras, because there is a very clear motive there---it's just, for that, you need a recently dead Chaplain. To be seen or photographed carrying a lifeless body to safety is to say to the world I care so much about this person that even their lifeless body is a thing of value to me. Cosgrove and Waugh are saying something else entirely.
In the World Trade Center Task Force Interview of Assistant Commissioner Stephen Gregory
published in the New York Times, Gregory informs us the what happened next:
"As we were passing St. Peter's Church, the captain of Ladder 102 and the lieutenant from Ladder 102 were coming out of the church and they informed me that they had Father Judge's body inside the church. They had brought it from wherever they recovered it into St. Peter's Church. At that point in time Tom McGonigle from the Field Com and myself went into the church. We went up to the altar. They had Father Judge on the altar. He was wrapped in sheets, some type of white sheeting, and they had him laying on the altar. We knelt down. We said a prayer."The New York Times published a link to the transcript of the World Trade Center Task Force interview with a Lieutenant Frank Nolan of Ladder 102---he mentions finding two civilian bodies, but says nothing about Father Judge. Nolan mentions a Lieutenant Ciaravino who responded to the scene with him, but Ciaravino is not interviewed. The captain of Ladder 102 isn't mentioned, but he may be John P. O'Connell.
After a 26-year career with the New York City Fire Department, O'Connell went to work for Collapse Rescue Systems, Inc., as an instructor. His page at CRS Inc.'s web site says he "served in Engine 257 Canarsie, Brooklyn for one year and Hook & Ladder 102 in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn for 7 years," without specifying his role on 9/11/01. But it says he was "in charge of all underground and confined space penetrations at the 9-11 WTC incident," and was "the technical advisor to the incident commander at the World Trade Center collapse," so he may have ranked as Captain of Ladder 102.
So, many of the fire fighters associated with Father Judge did not give testimony to the World Trade Center Task Force project: Zachary Vause of Engine Co. 21 , Christian Waugh Ladder Co. 5 , Lieutenant Ciaravino of Ladder 102, Captain John P. O'Connell of Ladder 102
Concern about how Father Judge died arose immediately after 9/11 and has never abated. In an article in the New York Times on September 27, 2002, titled, Killed on 9/11, Fire Chaplain Becomes Larger Than Life, the author, Daniel J. Wakin, seems to get to the bottom of what killed Father Judge.
"Some firefighters speculated that he died of a heart attack, but Brian Mulheren, a retired New York City police detective who attended the autopsy, said Father Judge died of blunt trauma to the back of the head.Shannon Stapleton, the photographer who took the famous shots of Father Judge, was working as a spot news photojournalist that day, when he also took another very successful image: of people escaping the towers down a staircase that became known as the "freedom staircase."
That staircase was a heavily promoted work product developed with much public relations effort and not a lot of soul, as the single place of egress to escape the plaza for the final batch of survivors to emerge from the tower before it fell. If that were sincere it would have a profound meaning. But I should think these people were channeled down this staircase, maybe more than once. I know the gentleman with the hair white with dust figures in another well-known solo image by Stapleton, as well as other famous images by Stan Honda. These people are hand-picked, chosen for their looks, with a bit of overacting going on too, if you look closely.
I should think her images of Father Judge were even more heavily scripted. The implications of this being true are enormous, beginning with the fact we'll have to accept, that Father Mychal Judge was the victim of pre-meditated murder on the morning of September 11th, 2001 The motive being more than obvious when it dawns on you that we have been having a scam run on us for several years now by you know who.
To let all the hero myths built up around 9/11 come crashing down will be a necessarily painful adjustment, but we are beyond being starved for truth. Anything other than the truth is poison to our systems.
I truly believe that Mychal Judge is a saint, by the way he has positioned himself in death, his usefulness to help reveal the cancerous tumor hiding in our body politic. He really does inspire people doesn't he? I know he inspires me.
Look at what the caption says on this photograph! "Police Officers had a hard task of keeping onlookers away from the scene." I know, and all that standing around is exhausting too! I'm afraid of them. They look tough!
This photo from 2004 shows both of Chris' sons have become FDNY firefighters since 9-11. (There's more story there---save it for another day.)
You gotta love a man in a kilt.
Isn't this the worst sculpture you've ever seen in your life? I mean, my God! What were they thinking? Don't you love the way they've decorated the street scene up with funeral flowers? This is supposed to be the memorial for our Father Judge that somebody came up with. It looks like it belongs in an S & M club. I say: do over.
All those little jibbies---pieces of the true beam, from the sanctified Ground Zero, flicked with holy thermit, blessed by directed EXO rays, subject to ongoing chemical deterioration. No small-town fire-department headquarters is complete without several. Collect the series.
And look! It's the Bells of Remembrance Project, starring Maureen O'Sullivan! That was a joke. Sorry. I just hate cheap charity. In word or deed.
Suddenly, I don't feel like cracking jokes anymore. I can't explain how I feel, but it isn't very good.
I just have one question, please. Come over here, I don't want to be overheard...Tell me, how, do you create a corpse on a schedule? Tell me, I want an explanation. I need to know.
And don't miss part two of the Father Judge saga: Who Gets the Last Laugh Now