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Derrick Doherty
Dec 24, 2018

Derrick Doherty: Faith Under Fire

By Felecia Stratton

Derrick Doherty

Neighbor to Neighbor

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Derrick Doherty, then pastor of the Memorial United Methodist Church (UMC) in Neptune City, was at Jersey Shore University Hospital. As the hospital’s volunteer chaplain, he was offering comfort to Vito, a deaf man with no family who was scheduled for surgery that morning.

“I was in the pre-operating room with Vito when the small, wall-mounted hospital TV broadcast the attack on the first tower,” Doherty recalled. “That small image continued to have a deep impact on me.”

To celebrate his 40th birthday in 2018, Doherty participated in the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers (T2T) run for the first time. The annual 5K run/walk, held on Sept. 30, retraces firefighter Siller’s final footsteps, running through the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel to the World Trade Center site. The event honors the memory of Siller, who died saving others on Sept. 11, as well as other first responders and military members who sacrifice for their country.

As a runner for the past 10 years, Doherty did not anticipate the T2T run to be physically tough – but he knew it would be emotionally tough. “I asked my 11-year-old daughter to run it with me and she agreed,” he said. “As if race day wouldn’t be tough enough, I had the privilege to experience it with my daughter.”

To honor Siller, Doherty – like many other first responders participating in the T2T – chose to run in turnout gear, the protective clothing and equipment firefighters wear when battling a blaze. He underestimated the effect the additional weight would have on him. “Many times during the race, I had to ask my daughter to stop running and to walk with me,” he said.

“The most emotional part of the day for me was when we ran out of the tunnel, and there were all the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) members in their Class A uniforms wearing a banner with the picture and name of a FDNY member who had died in the attacks,” he recalled. “My daughter and I stopped running to personally thank each of those FDNY and then New York Police Department members. She wanted to keep running and, even though many runners passed us, I told her that this was something we had to do.”

The most emotional time for Doherty’s daughter came during the post-race block party, when the T2T Foundation recognized veterans who were injured in the line of duty or their surviving spouses.

“Before the race, my daughter and I had many conversations about 9/11 and the ‘war on terrorism.’ She knew that members of the military have died and been injured,” Doherty said. “She has seen pictures, we have prayed for our military personal, and she knows many who serve our country proudly. But she had never before met line-of-duty injury service personnel.”

Doherty’s dedication to the local community is also worth recognition. In addition to his service through the church, he has been a volunteer firefighter for more than 20 years, currently as first lieutenant and department chaplain with the Lincroft Fire Company.

He grew up in Ocean County, graduating from Lacey Township High School in 1997. After attending college in Ohio, “I quickly moved back to the Jersey Shore,” Doherty said. “I so missed the ocean!”

Settling in Monmouth County, Doherty was pastor of the Neptune City UMC from 2001 to 2005. In 2005, he and his family moved to southern Ocean County when he became pastor of the Waretown UMC. In 2012, they returned to Middletown, where he is currently pastor of the Middletown UMC.

“My family loves living in Monmouth County, especially Middletown Township,” Doherty said. “We plan on being here for quite some time.”

Doherty is currently working on his doctorate, which focuses on faith in the life of first responders. “I consider it a pure joy to serve the community as a first responder,” he said.