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Thread: Stairway of Heroes 2

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    Stairway of Heroes 2

    Last edited by patries; 01-20-2002 at 07:46 PM.

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    Moderator patries's Avatar
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    ONCE THE PICTURE WENT IN

    ONCE THE PICTURE WENT IN, PEOPLE ASSUMED MY WIFE WAS A WIDOW;
    EXCLUSIVE: WHY THIS XMAS IS SO SPECIAL FOR HERO FIREMAN MIKE



    MIKE Kehoe will be offering up an extra-special prayer this Christmas.

    The present from wife Edra will mean that little bit more, and he'll hug her closer than he's ever done before.

    Even the air he breathes will be that much sweeter - because the 33-year-old knows just how lucky he is to be alive this festive season.

    On September 11, New York firefighter Mike should have become another tragic statistic from Ground Zero.

    A fleeing tourist photographed him on floor 28 of the World Trade Center as he bravely ran into the danger zone following the terror attacks on the Twin Towers.

    The picture, published on the front page of The Mirror, showed the determination and courage in his eyes.

    Minutes after photographer John Labriola escaped, the north tower came crashing down. No one who saw Mike on our front page expected him to be alive.

    He says: "They thought I was dead after that picture was printed. There was a ton of phonecalls. People were so concerned.

    "A lot asked my wife Edra how it felt to be a widow. That wasn't pleasant for her. Luckily, she already knew I was alive."

    In fact, Mike had been worried that Edra, 31, was a victim. She worked as a radiographer and often visited the World Trade Center.

    But she was not there that day. As soon as she heard what had happened, she dashed to her husband's fire station and waited.

    Eventually he managed to get through to her on the phone to tell her he was safe and that he loved her. They were reunited 30 minutes later.

    The Mirror found out about Mike's survival later that day when we went along to his station.

    THERE he was far from jubilant - six of his colleagues were still missing in the rubble of Ground Zero and that was all he could think of.

    He said then: "I was lucky. However, I don't feel any relief. I'll feel relief only when they come back."

    But they never did. Now the East Village fire station in Manhattan has had to accept six of their sons are gone forever.

    The shock and horror have lessened over the months for Mike, but his life has changed.

    He expects to have to work Christmas Day. If he does, his fallen colleagues will never be out of his mind.

    For his family's sake - he has no children but plenty of nieces and nephews - he will try to make the festive day as fun-filled as usual.

    If he does not feel like celebrating, he will not show it.

    Mike will manage. He is as determined in every thing he does as he looks in that haunting photograph. But any form of praise for his heroism during the disaster still falls on deaf ears. Modest Mike does not see himself as a hero - just a regular guy doing his job.

    He is embarrassed to have been singled out as symbol for the bravery and heroism that hundreds of his colleagues exhibited that day.

    He says: "Even though it was just me in the picture, it represents the whole New York City Fire Department because that is what we were all doing on that day.

    "It's not just about me, we were all there - I hope people will understand."

    He may be strong and insist he was just doing his job but even Mike acknowledges nothing will ever be the same again.

    "It has changed my life, it has changed the lives of a lot of people around the firehouse. We have never lost six colleagues before.

    "It makes you realise the world we live in. It makes you realise every day can be the day. You never know when it's going to be your turn."

    The Mirror pictures led to an avalanche of interest in Mike and that attention has continued. Huge amounts of post arrive at the firehouse for him every day and the media makes constant approaches.

    On Christmas Eve, he will be in America's prestigious Time magazine.

    On the day we visit, a group of tourists from Worksop, Notts, turns up at the station to meet him. Mike is clearly touched: "Two of the guys knew firefighters in Britain whose fire engine number was 28 like mine. That's why they came to see me."

    Three months after The Mirror first met Mike, the physical toll taken by the disaster is no longer evident.

    A confident, energetic individual who can hardly keep still has replaced the tired, drained post-September 11 man.

    But the mental turmoil will take longer to fade - if it ever does.

    Mike, who lives on Staten Island, feels awkwards talking about the emotional impact of the disaster on himself and his colleagues.

    But he admits: "We are just getting by. We talk about it in the firehouse, it's like therapy.

    "I am sure some have been affected more than others.

    "A few of the guys were a lot closer than me to those who died because I have worked here only three and a half years.

    "A lot of the guys have been here for 18 or 19 years and knew them really well.

    "In the aftermath, they tried to help their families. They were bringing them things - anything they needed."

    Pictures and tributes to the six who died - Mike Quilty, Rich Kelly, Matt Rogan, Edward Day, Mike Cammarata and John Heffernan - are still outside the station. Inside is the chalk board listing their duties that day.

    It has not been touched since and colleagues plan to get it mounted as a memorial.

    The board is split in two - in the first column are the names of the men on fire engine 28, in the second those on engine 11.

    Mikes's name and five others are in the first column. They survived.

    Everyone in the second column perished.

    They decided it was safer to stay in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel at the World Trade Center that day - and paid with their lives.

    Mike says: "We are going to have another memorial for them, too, but nothing substantial has been done yet.

    "We don't know what form it will take but we are going to do something."

    The firemen are under no illusion that Christmas and the New Year will ease any of the tensions.

    They are constantly on a high state of alert, well aware that despite the successes in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda could strike again and Manhattan is high on the list of probabilities.

    But they are attempting to put it out of their minds.

    Mike says: "I am trying to get things back together but it's hard, especially because of all the attention.

    "I'm working Christmas Eve, maybe Christmas Day - I don't know yet. Later I'll go down to my father's house and hopefully it will be like every other year.

    "I'm going to try to make sure it is as much as possible. I've got lots of nieces and nephews and that will help."

    Although those children will be glad just to have him around, they'll also have a hero in their midst - not that Uncle Mike will ever admit it.

    Mike Kehoe
    Last edited by patries; 01-14-2002 at 12:37 AM.

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