FDNY Chaplain John Delendick provided comfort to families of first responders...

FDNY Chaplain John Delendick provided comfort to families of first responders and others killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

FDNY Chaplain John Delendick, a 28-year veteran of the department who guided and comforted countless firefighters and their families after the Sept. 11 attacks, died Thursday, according to the fire department. He was 74.

The cause of death was cancer related to his time spent at Ground Zero in 2001, the FDNY said.

In a statement released by the fire department, Commissioner Laura Kavanagh called Delendick, a monsignor in the Catholic Church, a “spiritual constant” and a “pillar at department funerals, graduations, promotions and memorials.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams described Delendick’s death as a “heartbreaking loss.”

“Monsignor Delendick touched countless lives, providing comfort and prayer to FDNY members and all those in need,” Adams said in the FDNY statement. “He left an indelible mark on our city.”

The chaplain “was always quick with a joke and a kind word and had a way of making everyone feel special,” Kavanagh said. “He was beloved, and we are heartbroken over his passing.”

Retired FDNY firefighter Joseph Higgins, 62, of Freeport, recalled the chaplain as a "remarkable man" in an interview Thursday evening.

Higgins, whose brother Timothy, also an FDNY firefighter, died on 9/11, said he became close to the chaplain on a brief humanitarian trip to Afghanistan in 2001 where they were among a group of city firefighters and police officers who visited troops and brought food to an orphanage.

"He was always there for every fireman all the way up to the end," he said. "He never let his illness stop him. That's just really brave, just as brave as the guys that crawl down the hallway."

Higgins said he asked  Delendick to officiate his wedding in 2005 when he married his wife, Jessica, at Our Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Freeport. 

"I needed him to be the guy," Higgins said. "And it was a wonderful experience for both me and my wife." 

The Shrine Church of St. Jude in Brooklyn, where Delendick had served as pastor, announced his death online Thursday and noted additional details were to come.

"May his soul rest in peace," the announcement read. "Amen."

The Uniformed Fire Officers Association, a labor union representing fire officers of the FDNY, also announced the death, saying the chaplain had endured a "long battle with 9/11 cancer."

Born on Sept. 4, 1949, Delendick grew up in Queens and was ordained to the priesthood on Feb. 12, 1977, in Woodside, according to the FDNY.

He received the appointment to become the department's chaplain in 1996.

Delendick arrived at the World Trade Center shortly after the second plane hit and was there when the Twin Towers collapsed, the FDNY said.

He officiated at memorials and funeral services for fallen firefighters and helped at support groups started across the region in the wake of the terrorist attacks to assist family members of the those killed.

Those duties continued for years after as FDNY personnel continued to endure the fallout of 9/11-related cancer. In 2017, for example, he attended a ceremony to rename a Hicksville street for former FDNY firefighter Raymond Pfeifer, who died of cancer linked to his work at Ground Zero.

In September, the FDNY said the number of fire personnel to have died of 9/11-related illnesses equaled the 343 members killed in the attacks.

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