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The first victim of 9/11

David Epps's picture

Robert Emmett Judge was killed on Sept. 11, 2001. The son of Irish Catholic immigrants, Judge was one of a pair of fraternal twins. He grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., during the great depression and developed, at an early age, a love for the poor, often giving his last quarter to beggars on the street.

Judge’s father died of a slow and painful illness when the boy was 6 and Judge worked to shine shoes to earn money for the family. At the age of 15, he entered a formation process to become a Franciscan.

In 1961, he was ordained a priest at Holy Name College in Washington, D.C., and took “Mychal” as his religious name. From 1961 to 1986, Father Mychal Judge served at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, St. Joseph Parish in East Rutherford, N.J., Sacred Heart Parish in Rochelle Park, N.J., and St. Joseph Parish in West Milford, N.J.

For three years he served as assistant to the president at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y. In 1986, he was assigned to the monastery of St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street, New York, where he lived and worked until his death in 2001.

Around 1971, Judge became an alcoholic, although he never showed obvious signs. In 1978, with the support of Alcoholics Anonymous, he became sober and continued to share his personal story of recovery to help others facing addiction.

In 1992, Father Judge was appointed a chaplain of the Fire Department of New York City. As chaplain, he offered encouragement and prayers at fires, rescues, and hospitals, and counseled firemen and their families, often working 16-hour days. One person said, “His whole ministry was about love. Mychal loved the fire department and they loved him.”

Judge was also well known for ministering to the homeless, the hungry, recovering alcoholics, people with AIDS, the sick, injured, immigrants, and those alienated by the Church.
Father Judge once gave the winter coat off his back to a homeless woman in the street, later saying, “She needed it more than me.” When he anointed a man who was dying of AIDS, the man asked him, “Do you think God hates me?” Father Judge just picked him up, kissed him, and silently rocked him in his arms.

When Islamic terrorists struck the Twin Towers on 9/11, Judge, in his role as a fire chaplain, rushed to the scene where he administered Last Rites to the dead lying on the streets. Witnesses said that, as firefighters rushed into the inferno, Father Judge was pronouncing absolution, knowing that many would not return.
When the South Tower collapsed, a chunk of concrete hit the priest on the head as he was praying. He was killed immediately.

Three firefighters, assisted by two civilian bystanders, gently carried Father Judge’s body through the dust and smoke to nearby St. Peter’s Church and lovingly laid it on the altar. Judge’s body bag was labeled “Victim #0001,” officially making him the first victim of 9/11.

Over 3,000 people attended his funeral, which was presided over by Cardinal Edgar Egan. Former President Bill Clinton, who attended the funeral, said, that Judge’s death was “a special loss.”

Ironically, were Father Mychal Judge alive, he would not be welcomed at the 10th anniversary observation. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has banned all clergy and all prayer from the upcoming 9/11 memorial service planned to commemorate the tragic events of that day.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. ( He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese ( and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at]


It was a very heroic deed that Mr. Robert Judge took on that day in the face of danger and incomprehensible evil. I commend Mr. Judge for what he did and It is tragic that he died that day, along with thousands of other people on 9/11. I trust that he will also be remembered at the 9/11 memorial ceremony this year, by his friends and family members.

However, your complaint, and the complaint of your fellow Christians, that prayers and clergy will not be part of the ceremony shows how insensitive and misguided you, and your kind, continue to be in the public sphere. The many articles and comments I've read, yours included, from Christians and clergy, wringing their hands that they won't be included, makes you all sound like spoiled children. Not all of the people who perished on 9/11 were Christian and, most likely, there were many who would even call themselves atheists or humanists, not following any religion at all. The ceremony this year, and every year, is for the families, their friends and our country, to remember those who perished and for all of us to try and gain strength from those memories, to move forward. For you, and other clergy and Christians, to find fault with this ceremony shows how arrogant you all continue to be, even at a time when our country would like to remember 9/11 in our own ways. Are you so blinded by your own religion that you overlook the fact that other people who perished on 9/11 were of different belief systems? Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Wiccan, neo-Pagan, Humanist, Atheist, Agnostic.... the list goes on.

The fact is, clergy have never been an official part of the past 10 remembrance ceremonies at ground zero. Instead of prayers led by clergy, the events have featured moments of silence during which audiences may reflect and pray on their own, if they wish. <strong>"Six such moments are planned this year -- two to recall when each of the twin towers was struck, two to recall when each tower fell, one to mark Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, and one to remember the attack on the Pentagon."</strong>

Please remember what Jesus preached about prayer... I wish that you, and your fellow believers who are complaining so loudly, would actually embrace the example that he set for you:

Matthew 6:5-6: "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men....when thou prayest, enter into thy closet and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret...."

NUK_1's picture

[quote=David Epps]
Ironically, were Father Mychal Judge alive, he would not be welcomed at the 10th anniversary observation. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has banned all clergy and all prayer from the upcoming 9/11 memorial service planned to commemorate the tragic events of that day.

The above is why people get so annoyed with organized religion: the actual truth is meaningless if it gets in the way of firing up other fundies into a lather about how the country is going to Hell if there can't be public displays, prayers and ceremonies that are Christian-based.

There is no "ban" on the clergy attending this memorial ceremony and never has been. They can attend like anyone else. What is "banned" is any religious prayers by any of the speakers at the formal ceremony, something that was never an issue the last 9 years until this year when some of the fanatics like Tony Perkins and Richard Land suddenly realized they had been missing an opportunity to whine, get outraged, and then get some more donations.

Preachers are egotistic, extremely.

If not allowed on the stand to pray, etc., they are banned!

Apparently the mere recognition of other religions or no religions is verbotten!

LessThan3PTC's picture

Excellent comments Nuk1 and Main Stream!

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