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CNHI Special Projects

September 9, 2011

Ten years removed, 9/11 attack on NYC remains on minds of many



Those names form the nucleus of a network of sagas that connect the present-day lives of New York residents, workers and visitors with 9/11.

‘The worst that could happen’

Basile, a 41-year-old from New Jersey, watched the first breaking television news reports of the terrorist attacks at the Engine 1 Ladder Company 24 firehouse, where several of his friends worked as firefighters. “I was there when they pulled the truck out,” Basile recalled, shaking his head, eyes down. Three never came back, as well as FDNY chaplain Father Mychal Judge, whose church is across the street from that station.

The Catholic priest became the first officially recorded casualty of 9/11 while responding to the attacks, praying over victims and attending to the injured. Falling rubble struck Judge on the head, killing him instantly. The now-famous photograph of fellow firefighters carrying their chaplain’s lifeless, dusty body came to exemplify New York’s heartache. The firefighters took him to St. Peter’s, laid him in front of the altar. That church, founded in 1785 and the oldest Catholic parish in the state of New York, served as a makeshift morgue for more than two dozen bodies, said Madigan, the St. Peter’s pastor.

Madigan, himself, narrowly escaped death that morning.

The 64-year-old, lifelong New Yorker became St. Peter’s pastor just two years earlier. On Sept. 11, 2001, he’d finished saying Mass and hearing confessions when the church secretary told him a plane had struck one of the towers. Like millions around the world, Madigan at first figured it was an accident, perhaps a small plane. “And then I went outside and realized this was something much more serious,” said Madigan, sitting in the hushed church lobby, calmly retelling the story in a fast-paced, NYC accent.

“I was standing underneath the first tower, just watching the building burn, and I figured this was the worst that could happen,” he continued. “And then, all of a sudden, a second plane hit the other tower, and pieces of debris went flying over our heads. And I remember seeing a wheel from one of the planes flying over my head.” (That detached landing gear from UA Flight 175 punctured the church roof.) “Then I just rushed away. Then I was just going about, from place to place, trying to see where I could be of help with the injured or those who were dying."

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