A Winnipeg man is deeply affected as he remembers 9/11 and the loss of a good friend who died giving a firefighter their last rites.

Captain Mark Young recalls standing in a Booth University College classroom on September 11, 2001, hearing a ruckus break out. He ran to the lounge to find the television on, showing the distressing scene at the Twin Towers. Twenty years later, he still avoids watching television and consuming media in the first two weeks of September.

"It can't escape you," Young says, thinking especially of the firefighters. "You have that deep sense of comradery and respect for those who made the ultimate sacrifice and knowing that if it were to happen here, you would be in that same situation, trying to climb the stairs to get to someone in need."


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Picturing himself back in that room, the Salvation Army worker says his phone began ringing with frantic callers on the other line. Young was, and still is, a chaplain for Winnipeg firefighters. Those calls would prepare him for the hours and days to come. 

"Planes were being forced to land at 17 Wing here in Winnipeg. (I was) not sure what our role would be in the process but we would need to be on standby."

It was not long after that Young got the call that one of his friends was the first confirmed death in the tragedy. Father Mychal Judge, while standing in the north tower's giving last rites to a firefighter, was crushed by the south tower's falling debris.

"We were supposed to meet that October, a whole bunch of us gathering at a conference. It was a group of us who always used to hang out together."

A collection of people are now fighting for Judge to be a candidate for sainthood, noting not only his death but also his life as a gay Catholic priest advocating for the LGBTQ+ community and counseling fellow Alcoholics Anonymous members.

Salvation Army crews work in "The Pit" after a deadly terrorist attack in New York City. (The Salvation Army Empire Division Emergency Disaster Services/Facebook)Salvation Army crews work in "The Pit" after a deadly terrorist attack in New York City. (The Salvation Army Empire Division Emergency Disaster Services/Facebook)

While Young knows he can go to the site of the towers, he says he has never been able to make the trip.

"I believe it is the loss of life, the tragedy around it. Will I go someday? Maybe. It's twenty years later but I just haven't visited."

Thinking back, Young recalled being met with haunting silence in Winnipeg when he arrived to help that first day.

"It was an eery feeling because there were no vehicles other than a police car. A mountie was there directing me towards where they were going to be taking people. Everything was just a ghost town."

The next few days focussed on helping people stranded in Winnipeg and firefighters struggling with the loss of their American neighbours. Young helped deliver supplied and much-needed comfort as people waited to go home.

Over time, memorials faded and annual gatherings stopped, but Young and Winnipeg firefighters remember.

"As I talk to chaplain friends about how it changed our approach is a little bit more aggressive going around the fire halls and talking to them at that moment. Around anniversary times, well, they start up again."