In advance of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the so-called “Chaplain of Ground Zero,” Col. Jacob Z. Goldstein spoke of his memories in the aftermath of the collapse of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center with a crew from Jewish.TV.

“I got there right before the second tower collapsed,” Goldstein recalls in an interview that can be viewed on Jewish.TV, the multimedia portal of the Judaism website Chabad.org. “And that’s where I spent the next four-and-a-half months of my life.”

An Army officer and Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi who famously received special permission to keep his full-length beard while serving the armed forces, Goldstein would later be sent to Iraq where following the fall of Baghdad he would preside over Chanukah festivities at the former palace of toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

But his time at Ground Zero, where he assisted in recovery operations and helped grieving families, would forever change Goldstein’s life.

“When my men and I arrived at Ground Zero, fires were raging out of control and the smoke was burning our eyes. The first thing I noticed was the ash. Cars, people, buildings – everything was covered in ankle-deep ash,” he wrote in the weeks following the attacks. “Some time later it occurred to us that many people who had been inside the World Trade Center had been completely burned, cremated by the intense heat of the explosions and fires. This ash was their remains.

Chaplain Goldstein sits in a gold throne found in Saddam Hussein’s palace in Baghdad.
Chaplain Goldstein sits in a gold throne found in Saddam Hussein’s palace in Baghdad.

“I did not clean my boots that night. How could I? Would it make a difference? Within four hours I would be back outside, amid the carnage and destruction,” he continued. “I have not shined my boots since September 11, and when my mission here is completed and I am no longer needed at Ground Zero, these boots will be buried, never to be worn again.”

In his series of 14 clips on Jewish.TV, Goldstein similarly tells of stories both harrowing and amazing, such as blowing a ram’s horn known as a shofar from the site of such destruction, constructing a sukkah atop a two-and-a-half ton Army truck, and leading a family who lost a loved one in the mourner’s prayer known as Kaddish.

The videos come as part of a special section produced by Chabad.org, where visitors can find a collection of articles and first-person recollections from the days, weeks and months following the attacks, as well as leave their own thoughts and reflections.

To view “The Rabbi of Ground Zero: A Chaplain’s Recollections of 9-11,” click here.