Father George Rutler remembers the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attack as surreal. “The whole scene looked liked a black and white movie, with all the colour drained out – that made it even harder to grasp that the shocking events were real and not an illusion,” the Catholic News Agency reports.
“It was hard to see much because of the smoke and debris. We wore face masks,” he recalled, “but the stench was overwhelming, especially the burning bodies.”
“Everything was covered with a white powder and everyone looked like ghosts.”
Fr. Rutler, current pastor of Church of our Savior in New York City, was living at St. Agnes Parish near Grand Central Station during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He told CNA that he remembers the details of that day 10 years ago “very well – as though they happened yesterday.”
“One of the airplanes flew over my rectory and I wondered why such a large plane was flying so low. It never occurred to me that it was aiming for the World Trade Center,” he said.
“There was an element of disbelief in watching the towers collapse.”
And the “surreal nature of this was compounded by the remarkably beautiful sunlight and bright blue sky over the rest of Manhattan,” he added.
“But then the acrid smoke spread and the terrible smell lingered for days and even weeks all over the city.”
After the planes hit the Twin Towers that morning, the priest immediately ran to secure holy oils from St. Peter's Church near the scene, which was filled with dust and had been evacuated.
“I then helped firemen with the body of a priest who had been killed – brought the body into the church,” Fr. Rutler said. “That was the first official casualty.”
FULL STORY Heroic New York priests recall Sept 11 attacks (CNA)