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10 years on, first responders' families find comfort in company

Firefighter Regina Wilson looks over FDNY Chaplain Mychal

Firefighter Regina Wilson looks over FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge's helmet and coat. (Marc Beja) Photo Credit: Firefighter Regina Wilson looks over FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge's helmet and coat. (Marc Beja)

As the city’s emergency workers and their families looked back at the 9/11 attacks Sunday, many said they couldn’t believe 10 years have passed since the day that changed the course of their lives.

For some, the feeling of loss was slowly dissipating. Others said they were surprised that the deaths of their loved ones still seemed so difficult to bear. But what comforted them, they said, was being with other people struggling with the same emotions.

“It’s a lot easier when we have friends around us,” FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano said at the department’s museum, where firefighters from around the country came to honor the 343 members killed in the attacks, including FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge.

Judge, who was killed when the South Tower collapsed, had his dented helmet and soot-covered coat dedicated to the museum in a ceremony Sunday.

“He was not only a priest, a spiritual leader — he was a firefighter at heart,” Cassano said of Judge. “It’s only fitting he led everybody else up to a much better place.”

Regina Wilson, a firefighter of Engine 219 in Park Slope, was sitting with her colleagues in the kitchen when the first plane hit. One truck headed to the World Trade Center — its crew was never heard from again. Wilson, 42, was on a second truck, which was blasted by debris when the first tower fell.

“Everybody was kind of resolved — ‘this is it for me. Let me just do whatever we can to help before we die,’” Wilson recalled Sunday. “It’s been a lot going on this week. It’s a lot to cope with.”

A mile downtown, the pews at St. Peter’s Church were filled with family members and colleagues of the 84 Port Authority employees — including 37 cops — who died just steps away from its former headquarters at 1 World Trade Center.

“As time goes on I though it would get easier, but it hasn’t,” Chris Lennon, 20, said of losing his father, Port Authority Police Officer John Lennon. “I didn’t think that it would be this painful.”

Although he was young when his father died, Lennon said he learned a lot from his “hero” dad. He hopes to follow in his footsteps as a Port Authority cop, calling it a “dream job.”

Sitting on the steps outside the church were Tia Walker, 29, and her children Amir, 5, and Avah, 3. All three wore a small pin with a picture of Tia’s police officer father, Donald Foreman, who died after he rushed from his station at the Holland Tunnel to the command center at the South Tower. He was 53.

“That’s my pop,” Amir said, fondling his pin. “He’s a police officer. He was in a big building. An airplane crashed into the building and it fell down.”

Was grandpa a hero, his mother asked?

He looked down at his grandfather’s picture, smiled, and proudly nodded.


Follow Marc Beja on Twitter: @Marc_Beja

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