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The Telegram Newspaper “Healing Continues, Two Years Later”


The Telegram (St. John’s)
News, Thursday, September 11, 2003

Healing Continues, Two years Later
Tara Bradbury Bennett
The Telegram

The week of Sept. 11, 2001, is one that Father Gerard Critch will never forget.

The Roman Catholic priest from St. Mary’s Bay was one of many clergy who flocked to New York City to attend to those affected by the disastrous attacks on the World Trade Center’s twin towers.

“As you can imagine, there wasn’t a pit at that time like there is now — we were looking up at a huge pile of rubble,” said Father G, as he is affectionately called. “Imagine being a tiny mouse — that is what it felt like looking up.”

Critch travelled to ground zero from his home in Florida after speaking to Dr. Kathy Reilly Fallon, an attending physician and surgeon specializing in foot and ankle surgery. Fallon was serving as a volunteer at a clinic set up by the New York College of Podiatric Medicine at St. Paul’s Chapel, near the disaster site.

Father Gerard has always been a very giving priest,” Fallon said. “He wanted to help in any way he could, so I told him to come on up.”

After being picked up by Fallon in Newark airport, the pair started the drive to ground zero. Close to 20 security checks later, they arrived.

At the chapel, Critch donned a white lab coat and began his job attending to the many volunteer firefighters, police and individuals who were working at the site.

“There were massage tables set up and there were chiropractors,” Critch said. “The people came in and had their feet, ankles and legs attended to — they had blisters and were swollen from working at the site. We were giving them new boots, since a lot of their boots were being burnt by the heat of the rubble, so you can imagine how hot it was. Even my boots were burned.

“I had the job of measuring people’s feet for new boots and cutting insoles to fit. Because I was wearing the white jacket and my (clerical) collar, people kept asking me if I was a doctor or a priest. I said, ‘I’m a doctor of souls … or a doctor of soles!'”

Critch said the atmosphere of the chapel was overwhelming.

“There was such a feeling of love and compassion and caring,” he said.

Critch also performed pastoral duties at ground zero. Apart from blessing one of the main cranes used in the search for bodies, he was involved in the blessing of body parts.

“At one point I was asked to bless an arm, because that was all that was found from this person,” he recalled.

“I once found myself next to a Jewish chaplain who was reading a prayer in Hebrew. It all became too much for him and he was overcome and had to stop, so I turned to the old testament and started reading.

“Afterwards he said to me, ‘I didn’t know priests studied Hebrew.’ I told him we didn’t and he said he had asked because I had started reading at the very line where he had stopped. I told him that was because there was someone else in charge.”

HEAVENLY PRODUCTIONS

Today, on the second anniversary of the disaster in New York, Critch and Fallon are continuing their work, and extending the positive efforts shown by the many volunteers on Sept. 11, 2001.

Fallon and her husband James, a student at New York’s Julliard School of Music, have created a not-for-profit production company called Heavenly Productions, of which Critch is a member of the board of directors.

Their first project, entitled Heavenly Lullabies, is a collection of traditional and classical lullabies dedicated to the 63 babies born after 9/11 who lost a father that day, and the nearly 1,000 children who lost one or both parents in the tragedy. It will be officially released today.

A significant portion of the proceeds from the sale of the CD will be donated to the Twin Towers Orphan Fund, a charitable fund designed to benefit the surviving children of parents who perished in the Twin Towers, Pentagon, or Somerset, Pa. terrorist air disasters.

Fallon said a number of well-known musicians are featured on the album.

“My husband is a wonderful pianist and he performs on the album, and I sing two Irish lullabies. Frank Pellegrino, who you probably know from The Sopranos, is also an accomplished singer and is on the album as well.”

Perhaps the most famous name on the album is world-renowned pianist Frederic Chiu.

“Frederic was over for supper one night, and saw all my ground zero memorabilia, like the photos and my hard hat and a letter written to me by President Bush, thanking me for the work in St. Paul’s chapel. I told him about the CD and asked him if he would consider participating. He said, ‘I thought you’d never ask.'”

Critch, who will perform the opening and closing prayers at tonight’s album release event, said he hopes the children affected by the disaster will receive a message from the CD.

“We hope to give a message of hope and of comfort,” he said. “These children will never get a chance to be held by their fathers, or by their parents in some cases, so by this whole coming together, we hope to do some healing here, because God knows the world needs healing right now.”

© 2003 The Telegram (St. John’s). All rights reserved.