In October 2001, the New York Police Department sought support chaplains to come to Manhattan because many chaplains already stationed near Ground Zero were worn down a month into relief efforts following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Jon Widing, Avon Volunteer Fire Department and Avon Police Department chaplain, was contacted in Connecticut and became certified as an American Red Cross chaplain, a role he served for a year. He was first assigned to walk the perimeter of Ground Zero in a rescue operation, which became a recovery mission because no one was alive to rescue.
“We were just walking around kind of in shock. This was two, three, four months later,” Widing said. “Still walking around looked more like a moonscape than anything else. There was absolutely nothing recognizable. It was all ash. When remains were recovered, everyone would stop instantaneously. All the construction, all the noise would stop and it was absolute silence and the remains were brought out with great dignity.”
As a chaplain, he worked directly with the police officers, firefighters and construction workers, saying "as little as possible" and letting "the men and women talk about their experiences.”
Editor's Note: A full article and video about Jon Widing's experience as a chaplain near Ground Zero will be posted on Avon Patch closer to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. To share your story, e-mail Jessie.Sawyer@patch.com or call 860-356-6339.