Bill Cosgrove

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, a group of firefighters and Cosgrove, who was a police lieutenant at the time, 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.

At StoryCorps, Bill Cosgrove remembered the events leading up to that famous photograph.

Originally aired September 9, 2011 on NPR’s Morning Edition.