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The remarkable story of how a 9/11 fireman became a priest


All of us old enough have vivid memories of where we were when the news reached us that planes had struck the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was sitting in my 8th grade history class in a suburb north of New York City. Our studies were interrupted when the principal came on the loudspeaker informing us of what was transpiring just 40 miles away. She concluded her remarks by assuring us that we were safe and that we should all be proud to be Americans. Young and scared, I clutched the Miraculous Medal hanging around my neck.

On that same morning, Tom Colucci completed the night shift at his Engine 3, Ladder 12 & Battalion 7 firehouse in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. He arrived at his suburban home in Rockland County for some much needed rest. But as soon as he walked through the front door, a general recall was sent out for he and all firemen to immediately report to the World Trade Center, where violent disaster had stuck. Getting into his car and making his way to lower Manhattan, he could not have guessed what awaited him on that fateful day. He and the world would be changed forever.

As Colucci drove swiftly down the highway and through the Lincoln Tunnel, news reports on his radio made it clear that two planes had slammed into the Twin Towers in an orchestrated terrorist attack. By the time he arrived on scene, the South Tower had already collapsed. As thousands were fleeing for their lives, he and his brothers in the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) ran in the opposite direction toward chaos and disaster; an act of extraordinary and selfless courage.

While guiding people to safety and looking for survivors in the wreckage, he gazed up at the still standing North Tower every few moments, knowing that it too could collapse at any time. And before long, it did. In what felt and sounded like an earthquake, the North Tower began to crumble. He and two other firemen ducked for cover beside a nearby car and somehow survived.

When they were finally able to stand and began to survey the damage, they weren’t able to see beyond a foot or so amidst all the smoke. Colucci spent the rest of the day looking through the debris for survivors. He arrived at what came to be called Ground Zero at about 10:00 in the morning, just after the South Tower collapsed. He remained working on site until midnight before making his way to a local firehouse for rest and recuperation. But he couldn’t sleep, thinking of all his brothers in the FDNY who were able to get on site before him and make their way into the towers. They were likely all dead.

Read more at Catholic World Report

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