A year after the Sept. 11 attacks, John Reinke – better known to his friends as “Jack,” still couldn’t stop talking about two men.
Reinke, a retired Port Authority police office at the time of the attacked had worked in various capacities over the years, ending his career at the ship yards in Port Newark.
His many years on the PA allowed him to meet many of the key people there, and these two men most impressed him: Rev. Mychal F. Judge and PA office David Lemagne.
Judge, 68, when he died inside the collapsing towers would have been a legend without 9/11. He was one of the first religious leaders in the nation to embrace victims of AIDS in the early 1980s, and like St. Francis of Assisi, of whose order he belonged, Judge had an affinity for the poor.
“When flight 800 blew up a few years ago, Father Judge was the first to go and comfort the families,” Reinke recalled.
Judge, who served as chaplain to the fire units that responded to the 9/11 attack, became even larger than life when rescue workers carried out his body whole from the wreckage of the fallen tables, the man slumped over a chair in what some have come to call a contemporary Pieta – a picture of it still hangs in fire houses and police stations through the United States. Many have petitioned the Pope to name him a saint.
Raised in Brooklyn, Judge served in several parishes in New Jersey before becoming the official Chaplain to the New York City Fire Department. But he often came in contact with Port Authority police officers and others in the public safety community, all of whom he won over with his compassion and his charm.
“He was quite a man,” Reinke said, the same awe in his voice for Judge as the legions of younger officers had for him, most of whom turned out to mourn the priest and continued to miss him long after the headlines faded, someone who had become part of New York City’s mythology.
Lemagne was different, younger, still waiting to live up to his potential as a mythological character. He was a local whose name was frequently associated with another local legend, Robert Circi, because the two shared so many common interests and often worked together in volunteer services as medical technicians.
A native of Weehawken, Lemagne attended Catholic schools in Union City, before attending Essex County College and later Kean University.
He dreamed of helping people from very young and did so through his explorer post and volunteer work that allowed him to rub shoulders with local police and fire people. As soon as he could he became a certified EMT, and later volunteered for local ambulance corps – eventually getting work at the Jersey City Medical Center. He was frequently seen bringing food and clothing to victims of fires. He joined the Port Authority in August, 2000, and was assigned to Exchange Pace in Jersey City.
He was having breakfast there when he saw the first plane strike the World Trade Center, and he insisted on crossing the river to the New York side to help. He has been credited with rescuing one woman from an elevator shaft, and aiding several others, actually bringing them out to the street only to rush back in search of others he could help – only to die there.
Rescue personnel found his body in the lobby of the Marriot Hotel not far from one of the triage centers.