A different 9–11 story

What a day of remembrance. 9–11

It’s a day that most of us lived through, yet the pain and the heartache lingers on. I can’t imagine what the loved ones & friends of those victims have had to live with. It’s really empathy I don’t want, but will ponder as I feel that I owe it to them in a sense.

My 9–11 story is a different one.

One of my buddy’s who happened to be a firefighter, called me and just said “turn on your TV.” I asked what channel, and i’ll never forget his tone of voice when he said, “doesn’t matter”

In the matter of seconds, it was the most surreal thing i’ve ever seen. The most surreal thing any of us have ever seen.

It happened to be the last night I was living in my ‘yellow house’ and was only thinking about the failed relationship i was in, what I did to create that, and how I was going to pick up the pieces of my life. Seeing what was unfolding checked that perspective and I was beyond grateful to simply be alive, yet I was full of emotion and just crying at the sights on live TV.

We know the story. We’ve all seen it many times and it hurts to watch, it hurts to think about, but that’s a part of life.

My story is how small this world is and how connected we all are.

I joked for years how Bakersfield, CA. was/is the two degrees of separation, you know like how Kevin Bacon is everyone’s 14th cousin.

I heard stories from friends who had family in the building, one friend who’s sister was at the subway stop under WTC just moments prior, and more.

The part that made me realize how small our society is came from something different thereafter. But I need to set the table on that.

A couple years prior to the 9–11 tragedy, I went on a bike tour in Ireland with my dad. He was living back east at the time so we met at the Shannon Airport in Ireland and commenced our journeys from there. When we got to the meeting place, a B&B in Galway, there was a group of people hanging out in the pub part of the place, a fire was burning peat which was a new scent to me. In fact, any time i’ve ever smelled peat, it’s like i’m transported in that room with those people.

My dad was always a fairly quiet guy but in his last 20 years of life, he was sober and he began to open up more. He wasn’t outgoing or the life of the party, just had a warm smile and sense about him that you knew he was good people.

We found ourselves sitting with this group of guys mostly, and they were having the best of times. A few other couples filled surrounding tables and in time everyone’s focus was on this group we found ourselves enjoying.

As it turns out, there were 6 guys from the NYFD and one girlfriend. I thought this must be one tough girl to be able to be the only girlfriend brought on the trip, but in about 5 minutes it was easy to see that she was as tough as any of them. She looked like an Olympic swimmer, tall, broad shoulders, beautiful, and a wit about her.

These guys adopted my dad and me in the blink of an eye.

The bike tour people were as charismatic as any pair of people i’ve ever encountered. They came in, said, “hello, céad míle fáilte (a hundred thousand welcomes), look forward to a wonderful trip, get some rest as we have a fun & challenging little ride planned for you tomorrow. Cheers!”

Their milage was a wee bit off the next day. They told us we were riding about 30–35 miles to a quaint little town called Clifden. My dad had been riding consistently for some time so I wasn’t worried about him. I had only been playing a lot of hockey prior to this trip so hadn’t really put the hours in the saddle, but we set off.

The fire fighter group were fast friends. They made us feel like we flew there with them.

It was a commonly wet day there. To the point of everything I had on my person was soaked. As it turns out, Clifden is a little town perched on….well, a cliff. The bike tour people had the milage off by nearly half. So we rode about 60 miles on these hybrid entry level type bikes (not the most efficient in the world of bikes) and finished that day with a daunting climb that seemed to go on into perpetuity.

My dad was in his 70's at the time so I wasn’t sure how he was going to do as he was definitely getting fatigued. But I knew how many miles he had been riding and there were plenty of hills in his usual routes. He was clearly suffering, but I wasn’t much different. Everyone got their butt kicked on that hill that day.

As we reached the top of the climb, there was this epic sunset view over the ocean, oranges and reds colored the water. There was a man and a horse on this beach down below, running laps around and into the water. We were cooked from the climb so we stopped there to collect ourselves and I found myself lost in this horse on the beach. My dad and I just sat there drinking some water, silent, and in awe of this beautiful site.

We got to town, shared our discontent about the inaccurate milage that day, found all the guys, and forgot about it quickly. I ended up staying up late with some of the NYFD guys in the pub. Guinness and cigars after this long day, wiped me out. To the point that I wimped out on the day 2 ride.

So i’m in the sag wagon of shame and this diminutive little man turns around and in a snarky way asks me, “so what’s your ailment?” I replied, “too many pints of the black stuff, a cigar, and great company” He went back to being miserable about saying yes to a trip his wife really wanted. He was a doctor from Syracuse NY and wanted to sit on a beach in Greece but his wife said bike tour in Ireland. Like many men before him, he lost.

We got to the ending point for the day and my dad rode in shortly thereafter. He said his chest was bothering him and that he thought he had a chest cold or something so we set off to find a local drug store.

The next morning he wasn’t feeling any better and he said he was going to take the Sag Wagon to the next stop. This is super uncharacteristic for my dad. He was the consummate tough guy who never bowed down from a challenge. He shoed me away into the firefighter group and said he’d see me at lunch at the half way point.

The tour people said to look for these beautiful flowers along the coast line as you begin to climb this long hill. He said it’s so beautiful that you won’t even realize how long you’re riding uphill. Reassuringly, he said you’ll know it when you see it. And so it was. I’m riding up this hill for what felt like ever, and was completely lost in how beautiful the scenery was. As I walked through the door of the pub for the halfway point lunch, the sag wagon wasn’t there, but most everyone else came in about the time I did. It was an awesome day! I found myself learning the proper way to “pull a pint” behind the bar, and lined them up for the fire fighters.

Some short bit of time goes by and the fire guys came over to me and quite seriously said, “Michael. We need to talk to you. Now”

I was at a loss for what on earth they could have been so serious about all of a sudden, but they overheard the doc telling his wife, “oh yeah, the old guy on this trip. He’s dead and doesn’t know it yet.” So they asked him what he was talking about and he rudely dismissed them. He found himself being pulled out of the chair and taken in the next room where the NYFD guys said, “You’re going to tell us what’s going on with Mr. Ryan and that’s right now”

He realized the situation wasn’t going to get any better for him unless he complied, so he went on to tell them that my dad has had a silent or painless type of heart attack and is going to not make it out of this trip alive unless he leaves now. He also said the old guy has just enough time and much better odds at living if he goes back to “the fat capital of the world, you know, the states, as they do these surgeries day and night” My dad was in great shape going into this, but he was in his 70's.

They got all the info, came to get me and get me up to speed. I’m taking this in thinking holy shit, my dad is going to die and my huge family is not here to say goodbyes, help, be part of this, etc. The sag wagon is also no where to be seen, which means i’ve got 30 or so miles of hilly riding to get to the hotel where my dad might be. The fire fighters said they’d find the sag wagon to meet me and in the mean while make sure the doc writes a letter so we can get our airline tickets switched immediately and get out of there.

Somehow the sag wagon and I never connected. I got to this hotel, and found myself in the hardest conversation i’ve ever had. He was in denial, he was angry, really angry. The talk that I thought would take 10 minutes and be packing our stuff, took more like an hour, but felt like eternity. I even heard that famous dad line, “ You don’t talk to me like this, i’m your father!” I said, “Yes you are, and i’d like to keep you around for a while longer if you don’t mind, so let’s get the hell out of here.” I think he was resolved to finish his life in Ireland. His entire family was from there and he had a full life, plenty of horrific war experiences from Korea and WWII that he probably wanted to be done with.

Somehow, I got him to comply.

We had no issue in getting out of the Ireland airport to our connection in the UK. But we ran into problems there and ended up having to buy new airline tickets to get out of there. With the impromptu departure out of Ireland, we got to the UK after all the outbound US flights were done for the day and found ourselves sleeping on the airport chairs until the morning flight out.

My sisters met him in an east coast airport, got him to the hospital where he had another heart attack, and ended up having open heart surgery with 5 of the 6 arteries blocked. Miraculously, they were evenly blocked and the artery they call the “widow maker” wasn’t one of them.

Looking back on this, there were so many things that had to go in place to keep him alive. It all started with a group of guys who were very in tuned with what was going on around them and actually gave a shit to do something about it when they found trouble.

As time passed, the tragic events of 9–11 occur. A short bit later, there was that uniformed ceremony on TV. I was at my mom’s house chit chatting with her that evening. She said, “Michael, you keep looking at the TV when i’m talking, but you’re looking at that like you know someone.” I said, “sorry mom, but I think I know that guy. I do know that guy” She said, “that’s world news honey.” I replied, “Mom, that’s Mike Doohan….no, that’s Mike Moran, the fire fighter from the bike tour I was on with Dad in Ireland. Mike, Tom Pairc, and his buddies are the ones who saved dad’s life.”

Turns out it was in fact Mike Moran from our bike tour. He was the chubby faced firefighter who said, “Our friends, our neighbors, our relatives, they are not gone, because they are not forgotten. And I want to say one more thing, in the spirit of the Irish people; Osama Bin Laden….You can kiss my royal Irish ass!!!”

As you can remember or imagine, that ceremony erupted into cheers and togetherness in such a deep rebellious, fight back kind of way. The American way!

Mike lost his brother John Moran and a number of friends in 9–11, just as so many others did.

Every year around this time, I think about those guys, think about how they live it, the way they are always looking out for those around them, no matter what. These are the people in uniform who were running up those stairs that day, for the sake of others. Thanks to them, we got another 15 years with our dad, he got to meet my kids, watch them take their training wheels off, know that we all turned out alright. That’s all anyone affected from the tragic events of that day would wish for. More time.

I can’t imagine all those who’s lives they have touched!

Thank you NYFD!

Mike, Tom, et al, if you’re reading this, I couldn’t thank you enough and know that my dad never stopped talking about you guys! Thank you!

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on New York City, Washington DC, and Shenksville, Pennsylvania killed over 3000 people that day. Over 1100 of them never identified.

NYFD victims that day:

FDNY Chief

Peter J. Ganci, Jr., 54

FDNY Commissioner

William M. Feehan, 72

FDNY Marshal

Ronald Paul Bucca, 47

FDNY Chaplain

Mychal Judge, 68

Battalion 1

• Chief Matthew Lancelot Ryan, 54

• Lt. Paul Thomas Mitchell, 46

Battalion 2

• Chief William McGovern, 49

• Chief Richard Prunty, 57

• Faustino Apostol, Jr., 55

Battalion 4

Lt. Thomas O’Hagan, 43

Battalion 6

Chief John P. Williamson, 46

Battalion 7

• Chief Orio Palmer, 45

• Lt. Stephen G. Harrell, 44

• Lt. Philip Scott Petti, 43

Battalion 8

• Chief Thomas Patrick DeAngelis, 51

• Thomas McCann, 45

Battalion 9

• Chief Dennis Lawrence Devlin, 51

• Chief Edward F. Geraghty, 45

• Lt. Charles William Garbarini, 44

• Carl Asaro, 39

• Alan D. Feinberg, 48

Battalion 11

Chief John M. Paolillo, 51

Battalion 12

Chief Frederick Claude Scheffold, Jr., 57

Battalion 22

Lt. Charles Joseph Margiotta, 44

Battalion 43

Lt. Geoffrey E. Guja, 49

Battalion 47

Lt. Anthony Jovic, 39

Battalion 48

• Chief Joseph Grzelak, 52

• Michael Leopoldo Bocchino, 45

Battalion 49

• Chief John Moran, 42

Battalion 50

Chief Lawrence T. Stack, 58

Battalion 57

• Chief Dennis Cross, 60

• Chief Joseph Ross Marchbanks, Jr, 47

Division 1

• Capt. Joseph D. Farrelly, 47

• Capt. Thomas Moody, 45

Division 11

Capt. Timothy M. Stackpole, 42

Division 15

• Chief Thomas Theodore Haskell, Jr., 37

• Capt. Martin J. Egan, Jr., 36

• Capt. William O’Keefe, 48

Engine 1

• Lt. Andrew Desperito, 43

• Michael T. Weinberg, 34

Engine 4

• Calixto Anaya, Jr, 35

• James C. Riches, 29

• Thomas G. Schoales, 27

• Paul A. Tegtmeier, 41

Engine 5

Manuel Del Valle, Jr, 32

Engine 6

• Paul Beyer, 37

• Thomas Holohan, 36

• William R. Johnston, 31

Engine 8

Robert Parro, 35

Engine 10

• Lt. Gregg Arthur Atlas, 44

• Jeffrey James Olsen, 31

Engine 21

Capt. William Francis Burke, Jr., 46

Engine 22

• Thomas Anthony Casoria, 29

• Michael J. Elferis, 27

• Vincent D. Kane, 37

• Martin E. McWilliams, 35

Engine 23

• Robert McPadden, 30

• James Nicholas Pappageorge, 29

• Hector Luis Tirado, Jr., 30

• Mark P. Whitford, 31

Engine 26

• Capt. Thomas Farino, 37

• Dana R Hannon, 29

Engine 29

Michael Ragusa, 29

Engine 33

• Lt. Kevin Pfeifer, 42

• David Arce, 36

• Michael Boyle, 37

• Robert Evans, 36

• Keithroy Marcellus Maynard, 30

Engine 37

John Giordano, 47

Engine 40

• Lt. John F. Ginley, 37

• Kevin Bracken, 37

• Michael D. D’Auria, 25

• Bruce Gary, 51

• Steven Mercado, 38

Engine 50

Robert W. Spear, Jr., 30

Engine 54

• Paul John Gill, 34

• Jose Guadalupe, 37

• Christopher Santora, 23

Engine 55

• Lt. Peter L. Freund, 45

• Robert Lane, 28

• Christopher Mozzillo, 27

• Stephen P. Russell, 40

Engine 58

Lt. Robert B. Nagel, 55

Engine 74

Ruben D. Correa, 44

Engine 201

• Lt. Paul Richard Martini, 37

• Gregory Joseph Buck, 37

• Christopher Pickford, 32

• John Albert Schardt, 34

Engine 205

Lt. Robert Francis Wallace, 43

Engine 207

• Karl Henry Joseph, 25

• Shawn Edward Powell, 32

• Kevin O. Reilly, 28

Engine 214

• Lt. Carl John Bedigian, 35

• John Joseph Florio, 33

• Michael Edward Roberts, 31

• Kenneth Thomas Watson, 39

Engine 216

Daniel Suhr, 37

Engine 217

• Lt. Kenneth Phelan, 41

• Steven Coakley, 36

• Philip T. Hayes, 67

• Neil Joseph Leavy, 34

Engine 219

John Chipura, 39

Engine 226

• Brian McAleese, 36

• David Paul De Rubbio, 38

• Stanley S. Smagala, Jr., 36

Engine 230

• Lt. Brian G. Ahearn, 43

• Frank Bonomo, 42

• Michael Scott Carlo, 34

• Jeffrey Stark, 30

• Eugene Whelan, 31

• Edward James White III, 30

Engine 235

• Lt. Steven Bates, 42

• Nicholas Paul Chiofalo, 39

• Francis Esposito, 32

• Lee S. Fehling, 28

• Lawrence G. Veling, 44

Engine 238

Lt. Glenn E. Wilkinson, 46

Engine 279

• Ronnie Lee Henderson, 52

• Anthony Rodriguez, 36

Engine 285

Raymond R. York, 45

Engine 320

Capt. James J. Corrigan, 60

Haz-Mat 1

• Lt. John A. Crisci, 48

• Dennis M. Carey, 51

• Martin N. DeMeo, 47

• Thomas Gardner, 39

• Jonathan R. Hohmann, 48

• Dennis Scauso, 46

• Kevin Joseph Smith, 47

Ladder 2

• Capt. Frederick Ill, Jr, 49

• Michael J. Clarke, 27

• George DiPasquale, 33

• Denis P. Germain, 33

• Daniel Edward Harlin, 41

• Carl Molinaro, 32

• Dennis Michael Mulligan, 32

Ladder 3

• Capt. Patrick J. Brown, 48

• Lt. Kevin W. Donnelly, 43

• Michael Carroll, 39

• James Raymond Coyle, 26

• Gerard Dewan, 35

• Jeffrey John Giordano, 45

• Joseph Maloney, 45

• John Kevin McAvoy, 47

• Timothy Patrick McSweeney, 37

• Joseph J. Ogren, 30

• Steven John Olson, 38

Ladder 4

• Capt. David Terence Wooley, 54

• Lt. Daniel O’Callaghan, 42

• Joseph Angelini, Jr, 38

• Peter Brennan, 30

• Michael E. Brennan, 27

• Michael Haub, 34

• Michael F. Lynch, 33

• Samuel Oitice, 45

• John James Tipping II, 33

Ladder 5

• Lt. Vincent Francis Giammona, 40

• Lt. Michael Warchola, 51

• Louis Arena, 32

• Andrew Brunn, 28

• Thomas Hannafin, 36

• Paul Hanlon Keating, 38

• John A. Santore, 49

• Gregory Thomas Saucedo, 31

Ladder 7

• Capt. Vernon Allan Richard, 53

• George Cain, 35

• Robert Joseph Foti, 42

• Richard Muldowney Jr, 40

• Charles Mendez, 38

• Vincent Princiotta, 39

Ladder 8

Lt. Vincent Gerard Halloran, 43

Ladder 9

• Gerard Baptiste, 35

• John P. Tierney, 27

• Jeffrey P. Walz, 37

Ladder 10

Sean Patrick Tallon, 26

Ladder 11

• Lt. Michael Quilty, 42

• Michael F. Cammarata, 22

• Edward James Day, 45

• John F. Heffernan, 37

• Richard John Kelly, Jr, 50

• Robert King, Jr, 36

• Matthew Rogan, 37

Ladder 12

• Angel L. Juarbe, Jr, 35

• Michael D. Mullan, 34

Ladder 13

• Capt. Walter G. Hynes, 46

• Thomas Hetzel, 33

• Dennis McHugh, 34

• Thomas E. Sabella, 44

• Gregory Stajk, 46

Ladder 15

• Lt. Joseph Gerard Leavey, 45

• Richard Lanard Allen, 30

• Arthur Thaddeus Barry, 35

• Thomas W. Kelly, 50

• Scott Kopytko, 32

• Scott Larsen, 35

• Douglas E. Oelschlager, 36

• Eric T. Olsen, 41

Ladder 16

• Lt. Raymond E. Murphy, 46

• Robert Curatolo, 31

Ladder 20

• Capt. John R. Fischer, 46

• John Patrick Burnside, 36

• James Michael Gray, 34

• Sean S. Hanley, 35

• David Laforge, 50

• Robert Thomas Linnane, 33

• Robert D. McMahon, 35

Ladder 21

• Gerald T. Atwood, 38

• Gerard Duffy, 53

• Keith Glascoe, 38

• Joseph Henry, 25

• William E. Krukowski, 36

• Benjamin Suarez, 34

Ladder 24

• Capt. Daniel J. Brethel, 43

• Stephen Elliot Belson, 51

Ladder 25

• Lt. Glenn C. Perry, 41

• Matthew Barnes, 37

• John Michael Collins, 42

• Kenneth Kumpel, 42

• Robert Minara, 54

• Joseph Rivelli, 43

• Paul G. Ruback, 50

Ladder 27

John Marshall, 35

Ladder 35

• Capt. Frank Callahan, 51

• James Andrew Giberson, 43

• Vincent S. Morello, 34

• Michael Otten, 42

• Michael Roberts, 30

Ladder 38

Joseph Spor, Jr., 35

Ladder 42

Peter Alexander Bielfeld, 44

Ladder 101

• Lt. Joseph Gullickson, 37

• Patrick Byrne, 39

• Salvatore B. Calabro, 38

• Brian Cannizzaro, 30

• Thomas J. Kennedy, 36

• Joseph Maffeo, 31

• Terence A. McShane, 37

Ladder 105

• Capt. Vincent Brunton, 43

• Thomas Richard Kelly, 39

• Henry Alfred Miller, Jr, 51

• Dennis O’Berg, 28

• Frank Anthony Palombo, 46

Ladder 111

Lt. Christopher P. Sullivan, 39

Ladder 118

• Lt. Robert M. Regan, 48

• Joseph Agnello, 35

• Vernon Paul Cherry, 49

• Scott Matthew Davidson, 33

• Leon Smith, Jr., 48

• Peter Anthony Vega, 36

Ladder 131

Christian Michael Otto Regenhard, 28

Ladder 132

• Andrew Jordan, 36

• Michael Kiefer, 25

• Thomas Mingione, 34

• John T. Vigiano II, 36

• Sergio Villanueva, 33

Ladder 136

Michael Joseph Cawley, 32

Ladder 166

William X. Wren, 61

Rescue 1

• Capt. Terence S. Hatton, 41

• Lt. Dennis Mojica, 50

• Joseph Angelini, Sr., 63

• Gary Geidel, 44

• William Henry, 49

• Kenneth Joseph Marino, 40

• Michael Montesi, 39

• Gerard Terence Nevins, 46

• Patrick J. O’Keefe, 44

• Brian Edward Sweeney, 29

• David M. Weiss, 41

Rescue 2

• Lt. Peter C. Martin, 43

• William David Lake, 44

• Daniel F. Libretti, 43

• John Napolitano, 32

• Kevin O’Rourke, 44

• Lincoln Quappe, 38

• Edward Rall, 44

Rescue 3

• Christopher Joseph Blackwell, 42

• Thomas Foley, 32

• Thomas Gambino, Jr., 48

• Raymond Meisenheimer, 46

• Donald J. Regan, 47

• Gerard Patrick Schrang, 45

Rescue 4

• Capt. Brian Hickey, 47

• Lt. Kevin Dowdell, 46

• Terrence Patrick Farrell, 45

• William J. Mahoney, 37

• Peter Allen Nelson, 42

• Durrell V. Pearsall, 34

Rescue 5

• Capt. Louis Joseph Modafferi, 45

• Lt. Harvey Harrell, 49

• John P. Bergin, 39

• Carl Vincent Bini, 44

• Michael Curtis Fiore, 46

• Andre G. Fletcher, 37

• Douglas Charles Miller, 34

• Jeffrey Matthew Palazzo, 33

• Nicholas P. Rossomando, 35

• Allan Tarasiewicz, 45

Special Operations

• Chief Raymond Mathew Downey, 63

• Capt. Patrick J. Waters, 44

• Lt. Timothy Higgins, 43

• Lt. Michael Thomas Russo, Sr, 44

Squad 1

• Capt. James M. Amato, 43

• Lt. Edward A. D’Atri, 38

• Lt. Michael Esposito, 41

• Lt. Michael N. Fodor, 53

• Brian Bilcher, 37

• Gary Box, 37

• Thomas M. Butler, 37

• Peter Carroll, 42

• Robert Cordice, 28

• David J. Fontana, 37

• Matthew David Garvey, 37

• Stephen Gerard Siller, 34

Squad 18

• Lt. William E. McGinn, 43

• Eric Allen, 44

• Andrew Fredricks, 40

• David Halderman, 40

• Timothy Haskell, 34

• Manuel Mojica, 37

• Lawrence Virgilio, 38

Squad 41

• Lt. Michael K. Healey, 42

• Thomas Patrick Cullen III, 31

• Robert Hamilton, 43

• Michael J. Lyons, 32

• Gregory Sikorsky, 34

• R. Bruce Van Hine, 48

Squad 252

• Tarel Coleman, 32

• Thomas Kuveikis, 48

• Peter J. Langone, 41

• Patrick Lyons, 34

• Kevin Prior, 28

Squad 288

• Lt. Ronald T. Kerwin, 42

• Ronnie E. Gies, 43

• Joseph Hunter, 31

• Jonathan Lee Ielpi, 29

• Adam David Rand, 30

• Timothy Matthew Welty, 34

EMS Battalion 49

• Paramedic Carlos R. Lillo, 37

EMS Battalion 57

• Paramedic Ricardo J. Quinn, 40

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