Lake Charles retired priest reflects on being in New York one month after 9/11 attacks

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Published: Sep. 11, 2022 at 8:06 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - The devastation of September 11, 2001 continues to be a reminder of how united we are in America.

7News spoke with one Lake Charles man who was on the ground in New York a month after the attack to aid in helping our country heal.

“As an American, you’re never use to seeing anything like that at all, and as a fire and police chaplain, I’ve seen a lot of destruction, but nothing of that magnitude,” Father Scott DesOrmeaux said.

The now retired diocese of Lake Charles priest was on his way to meet a friend in Los Angeles in October of 2001. His friend was a Los Angeles police officer as well as a catholic deacon.

It was perfect timing for this visit to change course as officers from LAPD and the LAFD were set to go to New York and relieve local officers there who had been dealing with the after effects of 9/11.

DesOrmeaux said his friend Steve Hillmann told him they needed to fill another role for the trip.

“A second plane was headed to New York and they needed a chaplain because he was in the role of a different kind and he got permission for someone from an outside agency to accompany them which was when he talked to me the first time they’ve ever done that,” DesOrmeaux said.

They were a part of a critical stress management team.

“We just helped people unload, you know the burden that they have and just seeing how people were coping with their losses, where most people were just in shock,” DesOrmeaux said.

DesOrmeaux spent much of his time as chaplain debriefing with the Los Angeles team, checking in on them and what they saw.

However, he said being there himself and seeing the devastation was surreal, as he said there were some hard moments.

“One of the difficult scenes that I saw was on a pile of rubble, there was an older man sitting on a law chair. and I just found it unusual that he was able to do that,” DesOrmeaux said.

He explained how he proceeded to ask a firemen why the man was sitting there.

“And he told me that his son’s a fireman and his grandson was a fireman and underneath that rubble where he’s sitting is where they are and he’s waiting for them to recover their bodies,” DesOrmeaux said.

In all the darkness surrounding 9/11 and being at ground zero, he found some light.

“I did not sense, at least with the emergency workers and the people around, I never sensed any hatred. What I sensed was love and people coming together to help one another,” DesOrmeaux said.

He said it was the love of mankind that he takes with him all these years later, but reminders of those who suffered are kept near.

“We had to have special ID’s made and so, in fact, I carry that ID in my wallet and it’s just a reminder when I take my drivers license out, it’s right there and just a reminder for me to say a little prayer,” DesOrmeaux said.