9/11 Stories: Chris Keenan

Father Chris Keenan is the successor to his late friend and mentor, FDNY Chaplain Father Mychal Judge, the first person to die at The World Trade Center on 9/11. Father Chris says Father Mychal had a premonition about his death. Earlier that summer, he TOLD his fellow Franciscan brother and close friend Chris that he knew the Lord was near, and that “he was ready”. He believes Father Mychal could not have survived the aftermath of 9/11. He would not have been able to cope mentally. 

In the days leading up to 9/11, Father Judge was severely depressed. Ten days before September 11, he broke down on his way back from the funeral of a proby FDNY’er who had lost his life in a fire, weeping the entire trip back from the cemetery on Staten Island to St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan, and crying out, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do this anymore”. Two days before September 11th, Father Judge said the same words to a close friend.

Father Chris, who had been brought to both sobriety AND the church by Father Judge, tells us this about his fellow Franciscan: “He was ready” to become the first to die on September 11th. He was ready to welcome the 242 other FDNY’ers who died, along with the close to 3,000 others to die at The World Trade Center that day. “He died as he wanted to die, with those whom he loved the most. He died with the 342 other firefighters and the 3,000 others, many of whom he also knew. He could have never have survived 9/11. He would have been expected to do all of those funerals and people would be leaning on him. He had hit a wall in terms of his energy, sort of losing the fire in his belly for the job of the ministry of being a chaplain, which is one of the worst things that could happen in the Fire Department or for any of us when we lose the fire in our belly for something that’s our life. I’m so grateful he didn’t have to face that”. In the end, he says “Death was a gift to Mychal”.