Assonet 9/11 remembrance calls for gratitude for those who ‘put their lives on the line every day’

By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor
davejolivet@anchornews.org

ASSONET, Mass. — Hauntingly similar to Dec. 7, 1941, Sept. 11, 2001 is a date that has gone done in “infamy,” in the history of not only the United States, but of the entire world community.

Whether one was alive or not when four jet airliners were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center Twin Towers in NYC; the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.; or plunged into the landscape in Shanksville, Penn., thwarting an attempt on the U.S. Capitol building in D.C., mostly everyone knows the world was never the same afterward.

In fact, in some aspects, the world has become colder and more dangerous with terrorist attacks frequently occurring around the globe, and far too many instances of a small percentage of law enforcement officers exhibiting their prejudices against minority civilian populations.

In all of this, what has escaped the minds of many Americans and others, is the fact that an overwhelming majority of police officers, firemen and first-responders put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect all people in this country.

To that end, Father Mike Racine, pastor of St. Bernard’s Parish in Assonet, himself a former police and fire chaplain in New Bedford, Fall River and other towns, recently invited area police and fire personnel, retired and active, to a Mass of remembrance and a call for all to express gratitude for their selfless and often unrecognized efforts.

“I wanted them to know that they are appreciated and thought of,” said Father Racine.

The Mass at St. Bernard’s Church was held on 9/11, the 15th anniversary of that fateful day.

“I thought about what we could do,” Father Racine told The Anchor. “I felt a good way would be to send invitations to area departments to celebrate Mass with us.”

Concelebrating the Mass was Msgr. Thomas Harrington, longtime fire chaplain for the city of Fall River.

“I have the greatest respect and admiration for Msgr. Harrington,” said Father Racine. “It was only fitting that he should be here.”

On that Sunday morning 35 fire department representatives and five police department personnel were at the church, along with a 9/11 memorial fire truck and the badge of Franciscan Father Mychal F. Judge, the New York City fire chaplain who was killed by falling debris at the World Trade Center while responding to the scene to assist the victims.

“I had current and retired members from fire departments in Westport, Freetown, Berkley, Fall River, New Bedford, Easton and Johnston, R.I.,” added Father Racine. “Also assisting in the remembrance were the Boy Scouts of the parish who provided the color guard. The church was packed.”

In his homily Father Racine called to mind those who lost their lives, particularly the civil servants who gave their lives, including Father Judge. He also remembered Holy Cross Father Francis Grogan of Dartmouth, who was aboard United Airlines Flight 175 that crashed into the South Tower at 9:03 a.m., the first of the four horrific events that day.

“In the homily, I mentioned Fathers Judge and Grogan to remind people of these great priests.

“Everyone knows about Father Judge, but Father Grogan was a great help to St. Julie’s Parish in North Dartmouth and St. Mary’s Parish in South Dartmouth. He was well-known and well-liked in Dartmouth.

“I also spoke about service to others, which is the hallmark of faithful police officers, fire fighters and first-responders. But I also spoke about gratitude — gratitude for the sacrifices these men and women make on a daily basis.”

Father Racine added that there is so much going on today regarding violence and protests against police, and people need to know that only a small percentage of these men and women are the culprits of prejudice and bigotry.

“After the homily, I asked all the police and fire personnel to stand up to be recognized,” said Father Racine. “They received a resounding, five-minute standing ovation from the congregation. It was very moving and I was very proud of that.”

“We have a lot of young people in our parish, and many were at the Mass, and it’s good for them to see and hear what they did that day,” added Father Racine.

Retired New Bedford Fire Chief Roger Nadeau and his wife Nancy, presented the gifts, as did Easton Fire Chief Kevin Partridge, a St. Bernard’s parishioner.

“This was such a wonderful Mass and a wonderful thing to do to remember those who are policemen, firefighters and first-responders,” Nadeau told The Anchor.

Another parishioner, sacristan Barret Castro, a member of the Fall River Fire Department, played an active role in the Mass. “Barret is a special minister of Holy Communion, and I made sure that he was stationed where the police and firemen were coming up for Communion,” said Father Racine.

At the conclusion of the Mass, representatives of the fire and police departments lined up outside the church while much of the congregation met with them, shaking hands and offering thanks and encouragement.

Also at the memorial Mass was a fire engine that serves as a memorial to all fallen fire fighters. The truck is owned, maintained and displayed by the Nadeaus.

The engine was donated to Chief Nadeau by the Weymouth Fire Department because the pumps were failing. “I was looking for an engine that I could make into a memorial, but everything I saw was either too high for funeral processions, or was in too much disrepair,” he told The Anchor.

The engine is dedicated to Gerald Nadeau, Roger’s brother, a Fall River firefighter who died in the line of duty in 2002.

The truck, a 1986 Pierce Dash, has carried the caskets of 13 fallen firefighters and one military veteran.

On Engine 266, Gerry Nadeau’s badge number, is a 9/11 memorial containing artifacts on loan from Ground Zero in New York City from that infamous day, and the badge of Franciscan Father Mychal Judge, the New York City Fire Chaplain who was killed when the first tower came crashing down.

Nadeau is the caretaker of the badge on Father Judge’s person the day he gave his life to save others.

“I wrote to Father Judge’s twin sister, Dympna Jessich, to ask her permission to include a photo of her brother on our memorial truck,” said Nadeau. “She said she wanted to meet me.

“Nancy and I met with her a few times, and on one visit, she took us aside where no one else was and she gave me Father Judge’s badge and asked me to be its caretaker. We were absolutely stunned and humbled.”

The Nadeaus share the badge with people wherever the truck is displayed in public. “People get so many different reactions tho holding the badge in their hands,” added Nadeau. “Some have even claimed favors granted through Father Judge’s intercession and hold the badge.”

Jessich also gave the Nadeaus a photo of her brother taken at the 9/11 scene in New York shortly before he died. Father Judge’s sister also gave the Nadeaus a replica badge of her brothers, given to her by the New York Fire Department after his death. “It’s fitting that we have both badges because they’re ‘twins,’ just like Father Judge and Dympna,” Nadeau told The Anchor.

Also on the truck is a memorial to Vietnam Veterans, created by Al Deorsey of Magic in Motion in Fall River. Part of the memorial is made from a motorcycle tank.

For more information on the memorial, visit www.gerrynadeau.org.


© 2017 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing  †  Fall River, Massachusetts