Monday, September 12, 2016

Memories From Priests Who Went to Battle on 9/11

Ground Zero: Memories From Priests Who Went to Battle on 9/11
The terror attacks of Sept. 11 left an imprint on the nation — and also on the lives of clergy who witnessed it and ministered to the victims.
National Catholic Register
BY PETER JESSERER SMITH
09/11/2016

When people ask him — and many have — “Where was God that day?” Father Colucci says that he saw, firsthand, the Body of Christ in action. “The best of humanity came out that day.”
An American flag flies above the cross of steel beams discovered in the rubble at Ground Zero on Aug. 19, 2002, in New York City. – Mario Tama/Getty Images
NEW YORK — “It started coming down on us.”

Fifteen years ago, Capt. Thomas Colucci led the men of his 31st Street firehouse into what would be the finest hour for New York City’s fire, police and emergency responders: Ground Zero on Sept. 11.

After the South Tower collapsed, the Catholic fire captain and his firefighters began digging through the wreckage, searching for any hope of survivors and the firefighters who had gone into the tower to save them.

Then, at 10:28am, the sky opened up with a roar, and a collective scream of terror erupted from the ground — the North Tower and iconic spire begin to fall — and the men and women who donned the uniforms of New York’s first responders would give the final sacrifice amid a hail of steel, concrete and debris.

As they escaped, Colucci saw some of his comrades struck down — he and a few of the firefighters found their only refuge sheltering behind a car. Enveloped in that cloud of darkness, the fireman’s vocation became clear: He would become a priest, helping those in darkness see a great light.

Nearly 3,000 men, women and children perished in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. But the legacy of 9/11 is that more than 25,000 other lives were saved that day, because ordinary men and women put on their uniforms and ran to save others from death and danger. On a Tuesday morning, 343 firefighters and emergency personnel, 23 New York Police Department and 37 Port Authority officers laid down their lives for others. Many more would give their lives — a payment deferred by cancer they gathered from the rescue work.

Colucci retired in 2004, and, this year, he became Father Colucci.
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