Bride whose wedding ruined by New York crane collapse is married by fire department chaplain

By New York, Harriet Alexander

Nesh Pillay is assisted by FDNY Chaplain Rev. Ann Kansfield after a crane collapsed near the beauty salon where she was having her hair done. Photo / Getty Images
Nesh Pillay is assisted by FDNY Chaplain Rev. Ann Kansfield after a crane collapsed near the beauty salon where she was having her hair done. Photo / Getty Images

A chaplain at the New York fire department married a couple on the steps of the courthouse, after their wedding was almost called off due to a crane collapsing near the venue.

Nesh Pillay, 25, and Aaron Vanderhoff, 27, were due to marry at City Hall on Friday, and had originally planned to take their wedding photos at Tweed Courthouse before the ceremony.

Miss Pillay, from Toronto, was in the hairdressers' salon on Friday morning in Lower Manhattan when a 565-foot crane toppled over, killing one man and forcing the emergency services to seal off eight blocks of the city.

Read more:
Crane collapses in New York

"My sister felt what she thought was an earthquake," said Miss Pillay. "Within a few minutes, the whole place cleared out."

She realised that her special day was coming apart at the seams.

As she tried to sneak under police tape, wearing her wedding dress, she was greeted by Ann Kansfield, New York City fire department chaplain.

"She ran up and put her jacket around me," she said. "I explained to her my situation and she told me everything was going to be all right."

Ms Kansfield, the fire department's first female and openly lesbian chaplain, escorted Miss Pillay all the way to Tweed Courthouse. She even went back to the salon to retrieve a bag with some personal items that her sister had left.

"As she was looking for my suitcase she sent me a text that said, 'Don't be worried, all brides are late, only you have an excuse,'" said Miss Pillay.

"Even though we were all worried about the victims, she let us know that it was still OK to celebrate."

The chaplain added in the text: "Don't worry, we will get you married today in a lovely ceremony."

Miss Pillay said: "I was freaking out and my feet hurt and I was cold.

"While we were walking she sort of held my arms and assured me that everything would be OK and that she would marry us if needed."

"She married us right on the steps of the courthouse, of all places.

"I wanted to be excited about getting married, but it was hard because there were other families feeling grief today."

The 38-year-old victim was killed while in his car. Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York, said it was "a miracle" that no one else died in the accident.

"I was very grateful to have Chaplain Ann. She was like my invisible wedding planner that we didn't invite, but showed up anyway.

"She went above and beyond marrying us, and I think she will be such an important part of our lives from here on."

Mr Vanderhoff said he and his new wife were very grateful to the chaplain, who they later invited for lunch.

"The whole thing is extremely tragic. I can't even begin to express my sympathies for the people who are injured and involved," he said of the crane collapse.

"But what the chaplain did for us is super special. I feel like she saw a situation where she felt she could help out and she kind of just stepped right in and kind of really blew us away with her generosity of just taking hold of the situation and coming over and doing the ceremony.

"I feel blessed that she was there at that very moment."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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