9/11 SPECIAL EXTRAS: Father Mychal Judge
Father Mychal Judge left a lasting impression upon the thousands of New York City residents he touched over the course of his life, and I was blessed to speak to three of those people: Tom Ryan, New York City’s first openly-gay firefighter and Father Mike’s colleague; Brendan Fay, a prominent gay activist and Mychal’s close friend; and Larry Kirwan, lead singer of the Celtic rock band Black 47, which Mychal saw in concert weekly.
The following are excerpts from my conversations with these men. Please note that there are no internal edits on these cuts.
- Firefighters’ impressions of Father Mike: Tom Ryan recalls what his fellow New York City firefighters said about their chaplain before and after his death.
- A ‘first’ for Mychal: Brendan remembers getting a phone call from Mychal a year before his death, in which he told the gay activist about something he had never done before in his life.
- Discovering the true Mychal: Though he mostly remembers Mychal as a Black 47 fan, Larry says he soon realized just how special the FDNY chaplain really was.
- A good-looking man: Brendan and Larry both remember the 68-year-old as being one handsome Irishman
- Mychal’s relationship with New Yorkers: Despite taking a vow of poverty, Father Mychal Judge shared his spiritual wealth with each of his neighbors.
- Learning about Mychal’s death: Tom talks about walking around the devastation just minutes after the attack and then receiving word that his chaplain was among that day’s victims. Larry Kirwan also remembers not being surprised whatsoever that Mychal Judge was at Ground Zero, noting that Father Mike was entirely committed to his men.
- Famous last photo of Mychal Judge: Larry reflects on the final photo taken of Father Mike–viewed by many as a modern-day Pietà–as he was removed from the rubble shortly after his death.
- Anti-gay attack by evangelicals: Tom relives the day of Father Mike’s funeral, which began with an attack on the LGBT community by evangelical leaders Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.
- If Mychal were still here: Though they never had the chance to talk about their sexuality together, Tom says he might have spoken openly with Father Mike if he were still alive.
- Ongoing memories of Father Mike: Larry says although his group Black 47 doesn’t play the song ‘Mychal’ that often, he admits it’s magical and therapeutic each and every time it does.