Like most first responders on 9/11, Bill Cosgrove never meant to become part of history.
And he certainly never expected his life to become entwined with a priest he never met — Father Mychal Judge, Franciscan friar, chaplain to the New York City Fire Department, and a true New York character.
Born in Brooklyn, Mychal Judge seemed to know everyone in the city, from the homeless to the mayor.
On any given day you could find him at a baptism, visiting AIDS patients, or cracking jokes with his beloved firefighters.
That September morning Father Mychal was where he always seemed to end up — right in the thick of things. He arrived at the World Trade Center shortly after the first plane hit.
When the first tower collapsed, Cosgrove, who was a police lieutenant at the time, and a group of firefighters emerged from the dust carrying Mychal Judge’s body.
At that moment a photographer, Shannon Stapleton, snapped a picture which became an iconic image of that day — five men carrying a fallen priest, slouched in a chair, the tragedy’s first official victim.
Here, Bill Cosgrove remembers the events leading up to that famous photograph.
Click here for the transcript.
He checked his vital signs and he said, "He's dead." So, we all picked him up. We went up the steps. And I remember looking up because one of the firemen was yelling at a photographer. He was telling him in no uncertain terms, get out of the way. I didn't even think about that picture being taken. I was just doing my job. It's just… so many other heroic acts were being done all around me. It's just that no one took a picture of it.
The next day, when I came back into the precinct, somebody showed me the picture. And uh I got a lot of calls from people that knew Mychal Judge, firemen. They assumed I knew him, you know, but I didn't until that day.
He's always been on my mind ever since then because it's my firm belief that the only reason I'm here today is because of him. I know that sounds weird, but everybody you see in that picture was saved. And uh, I'm sure had he not been there, I would have been trying to look for other people, and when that North Tower fell, I would have been right in the middle of it just like the rest of the firemen were and some of my cops. But nothing was going to happen that day. At least not to me.