Words to live by, from Father Judge, Victim 0001

 

Column by WNLP’s Bob Wellinski

Just a few weeks ago our nation recalled the nineteenth anniversary of when we came under attack. Nearly 3,000 Americans were killed on September 11, 2001, the day on which terrorists hijacked four commercial jets. Two were flown into the north and south World Trade Center towers, one into the Pentagon building, and one crashed into a Pennsylvania field.

The morning of the attacks, I was in the Herald-Argus newsroom. I had just arrived at work shortly after the first plane hit. A few of us were huddled in the darkroom watching a small black and white TV. With confusion and horror we listened to the live newscasts of what just happened. Then all of a sudden, we witnessed the second plane slamming into the second World Trade Center building. It was then we had a pretty good idea of what was happening.

It’s taken me these past few weeks to write this because so many thoughts and emotions have flooded my mind. The TV networks replayed the day’s events and the recorded conversations between the planes and the tower or passengers leaving messages to their loved ones moments before their lives were senselessly taken.

Let us not forget those who gave their lives as they attempted to save lives: the firefighters, police and other emergency personnel who ran into the face of danger.

It’s true those men and women, as do all the men and women in our emergency services and military, were aware of the risks. Let’s pause a moment and really think about what they are willing to sacrifice for our community and country. They are willing to sacrifice their lives for someone in need. Granted, there are a few bad apples out there, but let’s focus on the majority, as in any other profession.

What really motivated me to write this column was a story about “Victim 0001,” the first certified 9/11 fatality, Mychal Judge … Father Mychal Judge.

Father Judge was a chaplain for the New York Fire Department. He was killed when falling debris from the South Tower hit him as he was tending to the injured and deceased in the North Tower. It was reported that the moment he was struck in the head, he was praying aloud, “Jesus, please end this right now. God, please end this.”

We need to rewind approximately 24 hours prior to the events of 9/11 and listen to words that Father Judge spoke during a fire station re-dedication. Granted, these words were directed towards the firefighters attending that day’s event, but look at the deeper message. Each day I read and re-read his message and realize we need to look at our individual lives this way.

Here are the words Father Judge spoke at his last homily:

“Good morning, everyone.

            May the grace of God the Father, peace of God the Son, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

            We come to this house this morning to celebrate renewal, rejuvenation, new life.  We come to thank God for the blessings over all the years – the good work that’s been done here and especially the last few days.  We can never thank God enough for the reality of the lives we have. So, standing in His presence this morning, and truly this is a chapel, let us pause for a moment, perhaps close our eyes, and thank God for some special blessings in our individual lives.

Let us pray.

Thank you, Lord, for life. Thank you for love. Thank you for goodness. Thank you for work. Thank you for family. Thank you for friends. Thank you for every gift because we know that every gift comes from you, and without you, we have and are nothing. So, as we celebrate this day in thanksgiving to you, keep our hearts and minds open. Let us enjoy each other’s company, and most of all, let us be conscious of Your presence in our lives and in a special way in the lives of all those who have gone before us. And Father, we make our prayer, as always, in Jesus’ name who lives with You forever and ever.

That’s the way it is. Good days. And bad days. Up days. Down days. Sad days. Happy days. But never a boring day on this job. You do what God has called you to do. You show up. You put one foot in front of another. You get on the rig and you go out and you do the job – which is a mystery. And a surprise. You have no idea when you get on that rig. No matter how big the call. No matter how small. You have no idea what God is calling you to. But he needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us.

The retirees – He needs your prayers. He needs your stopping by occasionally to give strength and support and to tell the stories of the old days. We need the house and to those of you that are working now, keep going. Keep supporting each other. Be kind to each other. Love each other. Work together and do what you did the other night and the weeks and the months and the years before and from this house, God’s blessings go forth in this community. It’s fantastic!

What great people. We love the job. We all do. What a blessing that is. A difficult, difficult job and God calls you to it. And then He gives you a love for it so that a difficult job will be well done. Isn’t He a wonderful God? Isn’t He good to you? To each one of you? And to me! Turn to Him each day. Put your faith and your trust and your hope and your life in His hands, and He’ll take care of you and you’ll have a good life.

And this house will be a great, great blessing to this neighborhood and to this city.

Amen.”

It’s hard to think about and realize how fragile life is. We don’t like to admit and face the reality that there will come a day when our earthly life will end. Like those who died on 9/11, we don’t know when “our day” will come. Please, I’m not saying we need to dwell on it. But embrace each day. Many of the 9/11 passengers went to bed the night before, excited about the next day’s trip. The workers in the Trade Center building were ready to start another “ordinary” day. We do that every day.

Go back to Father Judge’s words: “We come to thank God for all the blessings over the years … We can never thank God enough for the reality of the lives we have … perhaps, close our eyes, and thank God for some of the special blessings in our individual lives.”

Life gets hectic. Do we acknowledge the blessings in our lives … and are we grateful for them? Or are we so wrapped up in our individual world with blinders on?

We all want to have those sunny, rainbow-filled days of happiness and joy. Father Judge reminds us, “That’s the way it is. Good days. Bad days. Up days. Down days. Sad days. Happy days … You put one foot in front of another … You have no idea what God is calling you to do. But He needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us.”

I recall the days following the attacks, how our nation – the world – came together with much love, caring and compassion. Where has that gone?  Look at the unrest, hurt and hatred filling our great country.

Let us meditate on Father’s words and come together, support one another, love one another.

As Father Judge closed his homily with these words, so this column ends in hope that his words resonate beyond the eyes that read and into the hearts of countless lives for many generations.

“Keep supporting each other. Be kind to each other. Love each other.”

Bob Wellinski, of La Porte, is a photojournalist and a longtime contributor to WNLP.

3 Responses to “Words to live by, from Father Judge, Victim 0001”

  1. Gail

    Sep 21. 2020

    Thank you, Bob, for such an inspirational offering. This piece will be my morning devotional for many days. Be well and may our Father continue to bless you with your great gift of bringing people together most often through your photos, and today with your words.

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  2. Nancy L

    Sep 21. 2020

    Bob you are an inspiration to me. You are one of the few most likely pondering these thoughts during this he night while knowing a loving God and wondering what He is thinking about our contemporary problems in n our world. After much struggle you conclude that He has a place for you in all this turmoil, a place be a part of the solution and a place in the healing. You urge us to be a part of the solution as well. You urge us to believe in a loving God who will not fail us. You urge us to find the best of ourselves and to use our gifts to make our world a better way place. Thank you Bob for reminding us of our responsibilities in regard to these important matters.

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  3. Susan Ebert

    Sep 21. 2020

    Thank you, Bob, very much for your inspirational article. We all need to be reminded of how much God is important to our daily living, and be thankful for everything he has done for us.

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