Remembering FDNY Chaplain Killed by 9/11 Toxins: Honoring His Work at Ground Zero and Beyond

December 1, 2023 By admin Off

Inside a Brooklyn church, mourners gathered Friday to honor beloved FDNY chaplain Monsignor John Delendick, who was both a 9/11 victim and hero. At 74, Delendick passed away from pancreatic cancer linked to toxins at the World Trade Center, where he arrived before the second tower fell on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. His casket was brought to the funeral atop an FDNY truck, with Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanaugh watching as six firefighters carried the priest inside to the hymn “Amazing Grace.” “That morning, he arrived at the World Trade Center soon after the second plane crashed,” she recalled in her eulogy. “He survived the collapse of the two buildings … And he officiated at so many memorials he lost count. He taught us how to live and how to let go.” Delendick took over as the department’s senior chaplain after Father Mychal Judge became the first official victim of the attack, returned to the site multiple times in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, with the toxic dust of Lower Manhattan eventually sickening the veteran priest. He arranged boat trips for 9/11 families to visit Ground Zero only weeks after the attack, gathering the mourners for a prayer on their trip from the Brooklyn Naval Yard to the site. “I remember spending so much time with him at Ground Zero during the 9/11 period,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, a fellow chaplain. “And as the bodies came out, he would turn and say to me, ‘You bless them in Hebrew and I’ll bless them in English because we all belong to the same family.’ When others would leave, he would stay. …. However, that (first) night he went home, on 9/11, and he admitted that he cried like never before.” Firefighters lined the street outside the Co-Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Brooklyn to salute the revered chaplain as his body was brought inside the church. The Queens native was ordained on Feb. 12, 1977, became an FDNY chaplain 19 years later after serving in churches across Brooklyn, and continued his work in the 9/11 community even after his diagnosis. “We’re going to leave, but we’re not going to say goodbye,” said Potasnik. “And we’re going to carry him in our hearts, as he carried all of us in his heart.” The diligent priest was also recalled for his trademark greeting, delivered regardless of the time of day: “Good morning, how are you?” And Delendick’s family was presented with his FDNY helmet once the service was finished. “I feel sorrow and a loss of words, and I think we all do,” said Kavanaugh. “But I also find gratitude and comfort in knowing he’s finally at peace.” Monsignor Richard Ahlemeyer, a longtime friend of Delendick, said his fellow priest had shared his fears of World Trade Center-related illness across the ensuing years. “The events of 9/11 and the aftermath related to sicknesses … claimed the lives of so many,” he said. “And now John’s name will be added to that list.” Ahlemeyer wrapped up his eulogy with an old Irish prayer for his colleague: “May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”