National Catholic Register


What They Saw

BY Jim Cosgrove

September 8-14, 2002 Issue | Posted 9/8/02 at 1:00 AM


“As people escaped from the buildings, some of them were making confessions. ‘Give me a blessing, Father,’ they'd ask. I heard one or two confessions. They were all hurrying away. But they'd say, ‘Just give me absolution, Father,’ as they hurried to get out of the place.”

— Father Peter Philominraj, Our Lady of Victory parish.

“While ministering to the wounded in front of the Millennium Hotel, I heard what sounded like gunshots coming from the towers. It was not gunfire. It was the distinct sound of bodies falling to the earth.”

— Father Jim Hayes, St. Andrew's Catholic Church, Manhattan

“After the buildings came down, I saw an officer running out of the debris cloud covered with dust. I ran into a nearby deli and grabbed eight to nine bottles of water to pour on his head. He later joked that he thought I was one of New York's first looters.”

— Father Chris Hynes, Port Authority chaplain

“As I approached the place where one of our fellow citizens lay, every activity would stop. Soldiers would halt, digging would cease, police officers and firemen sifting through the rubble would lay aside their duties, and together we would kneel in the dust and bow our heads to pray for the dead and to afford them the reverence, respect and love that they so richly deserve.’”

— Father Robert Marciano, military chaplain, Pentagon

“I was appointed as chaplain of the Port Authority just 10 days before Sept. 11. When I got down to Ground Zero on the evening of the 11th, I could not believe the devastation. It was like World War II. It was beyond my imagination. The dust was ankle-deep. There was so much smoke and the smell was unforgettable. There were three air-cooled tractor-trailers serving as morgues. As body parts were discovered they were placed in plastic bags, wrapped in an American flag and saluted and carried away. I spent the evening praying over and blessing them.

“For the first five months I spent Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. working at Ground Zero and working with the 74 Port Authority families that have lost a loved one.”

— Father Mark Giordani, Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Paterson, N.J.