9/11 families to meet pope

April 18, 2008 11:01:20 AM PDT
Washington, D.C. is getting ready for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI, who will land at Andrews Air Force Base Tuesday afternoon.He arrives in New York City on Friday, and one of his stops here will be Ground Zero on Sunday morning.

Eyewitness News reporter Michelle Charlesworth talked to some families of 9/11 victims, who are anxiously awaiting the pope's visit.

They were four brothers, all firefighters. But on September 11th, Jimmy, the eldest, was killed while saving a woman, when the north tower collapsed. Now, the pope wants to meet Tom, Jimmy's little brother, when he comes to pray at Ground Zero Sunday.

"I don't thing it has set in yet," Tom said. "I'm still like, am I really going to go down and meet the pope, you know?"

Tom got a call from the archdiocese last week. He says he never knew he was part of a lottery of 9/11 victims' family members, and that only 20 were picked.

The pope's visit at Ground Zero will be private. Those invited have only been told to meet more than two hours before at an undisclosed location for a debrief under heavy security before going to the scene.

"We'll meet with Secret Service," Tom said. "They'll tell us about etiquette with the pope."

Once there, the pope will reflect in prayer. Tom is allowed to bring one guest. First, he asked his mom. But she told him to ask his father, retired fire chief Jim, Sr.

"We found my son's body March 25, 2002," Jim, Sr. said. "It was an honor for me and my three sons to carry his body out of there and now know that the pope is going to go down there and bless that site, exactly where we were."

Tom says standing with the pope will be surreal, but that his thoughts will be about his big brother, his amazing spirit and the hole his death has left in a beautiful family.

"He could've just ran," Tom said. "But he stayed, and I just think of the comfort she must've felt knowing they weren't going to leave her."

Tom believes part of Jimmy is still there, and that the pope's blessing Sunday morning will bring him comfort.