The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


New York pastor keeps vigil at firehouse

On Sept. 11 and the days after, former firehouse chaplain Paul Schmiege visited the two fire stations closest to his parish, St. Luke Lutheran Church on West 46th Street, a few miles north of the World Trade Center site.

Two blocks northeast is a station many people have seen on television because it's one of many that lost nearly its entire company. A shrine of flowers, candles, posters and photos extends all the way from the huge doors to the sidewalk. Five blocks southwest of St. Luke, at Rescue Co. 1, the story is much the same; most of the firefighters are missing. The front of the small firehouse is draped in purple-and-black bunting to symbolize mourning.

It is here that Schmiege offered help on the second day and found a young woman waiting with her family for news of her missing fiancé. The two were to be married this fall by Mychal Judge, the FDNY chaplain who died at the site of the collapse.

For days "Father Paul," as she called Schmiege, visited, talked, counseled and prayed with her as she kept vigil. Then on Sept. 19 she wasn't there when he went calling. She was attending her fiancé's wake in Brooklyn. Their relationship over those days "was what will be typical of so many now," says Schmiege, who hasn't been able to contact the woman since that day. "The close supportive bonds will come to an end as people are ready to re-enter their lives. It won't be the same, but they'll be able to go back to the people they know. It doesn't matter how long we know each other."


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