Priests Recall How A Cup Of Coffee Saved Them On 9/11

ELROSA, Minn. (WCCO) — Two Minnesota priests are in New York City to commemorate 10 years since the Twin Towers fell and to mark the morning their own lives were spared.

Fathers Jeff Ethan and Peter Kirchner of the St. Cloud Diocese were visiting New York City that day. One more cup of coffee kept them alive.

“We realized the restaurant was in the first tower. No one got out and that we had we stuck to our itinerary we would have been killed,” Father Ethan recalled.

Visiting these priests again, they talk about what they experience and how 9/11 changed their faiths forever.

“The clergy was shoulder to shoulder with the firefighters and the police officers, the medical technicians. We were all together,” Father Ethan said.

For months, Fathers Ethan and Kirchner had planned a trip to New York City for Sept. 10, 2001.

Drinking one more cup of coffee delayed their visit to the Twin Towers that morning.

“That kept us from being where we were supposed to be and because of that, it saved our lives,” Father Ethan said holding up the cup he still has.

In the week that followed, the priests would work a sort of street ministry near Ground Zero. WCCO followed them through the streets of the city as they did what they could to help.

At first, they helped to re-connect families but as days passed their role would change.

“Our job all day was to look them in the eye and tell them it’s OK to quit. That there’s nobody to find. You have permission to stop looking,” Father Ethan said.

They knew they would make the trip back to mark the somber anniversary this year, after an experience that only made their beliefs stronger.

“That just reinforced to me the importance of trying to live ones faith and trying to share the faith,” said Father Kirchner.

It is a story they have told hundreds of times in the last 10 years, how after tragedy what matters most is what happens next.

The priests will be in New York City for the next week. They’re staying at the same place they stayed 10 years ago, 20 blocks from the Twin Towers.

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