NYC Fire Chaplain recalls experience on September 11, 2001

September 10, 2011. Fr. Joe Bayne, Fire Chaplain at Ground Zero remembers… “Certainly I had the humble experience of ministering there as a fire Chaplain and being with just some amazing down to earth people, whose humanness to me showed their spirituality of brotherhood, sisterhood. And in the aftermath of 9/11, a lot of media coverage and a lot of people asked me ‘Did you hear that people saw the face of the devil in the smoke at ground zero’? And I said ‘No, I was in that smoke, I never saw the face of the devil‘.”

FULL SPEECH

As a Franciscan, as a follower of Francis of Assisi, I guess one of the biggest hallmarks that I try to grab onto is to try and radiate a little joy in our worlds.

And as we reflect back on 9/11, some years later now, maybe not too many people would think of joy in that day, that nightmare, that tragedy. But certainly I had the humble experience of ministering there as a fire Chaplain and being with just some amazing down to earth people, whose humanness to me showed their spirituality of brotherhood, sisterhood. And in the aftermath of 9/11, a lot of media coverage and a lot of people asked me ‘Did you hear that people saw the face of the devil in the smoke at ground zero’? And I said ‘No, I was in that smoke, I never saw the face of the devil’.

What happened there, the terrorism was evil. We know that. But what I was able to do, maybe it was the grace of God at work, was to see the face of God in the people I encountered there,  firefighters, police officers, rescue people, EMS people, construction workers and heavy machine operators, the rescue dogs, the salvation army, and the other people that provided for our needs.

Even in a chiropractor I know that worked on my bad back after hours standing there and working at ground zero. I saw the face of God in them, in their simple human goodness. Their care, the dignity shown to the remains that we brought off the pile and so on. And I was able to besides pray and cry there with people, pat firefighters on the back as they came off their shift, maybe to shake a hand, give a hug, brush the dust off their head and give them a bottle of water, I was also able to maybe joke a little bit. Certainly not about the tragedy, but just about maybe saying to a firefighter: ‘Oh your make-up is running’!

If we can lift people’s spirits in the midst of the sad stuff of our world, I think then like Francis of Assisi, you and I can be instruments of peace, bringing a little joy to our world. And that’s my prayer, that’s my prayer for our nation. Amen.

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