She'll Stay in the Home Her Husband Rebuilt

October 31, 2001

Some who grieve search out new places that hold no memories of the dead. Not Diane Egan. "I'll stay here," she said of the Staten Island house where she and her husband, Capt. Martin Egan, a 15-year fire department veteran, lived with their two young children.

Egan, 37, bought the two- story colonial home near Great Kills Harbor soon after their marriage. Over the next year, he gutted the interior and rebuilt it by himself.

"He did the rafters, the sheetrock, everything," said John Mahon, a childhood friend who is also a firefighter. "He was meticulous about what he did. He would do one thing at a time, no matter how long it took."

Now his wife finds comfort in the rooms he so lovingly crafted for her and their children, Sean, 5, and Carrie, 3. "This whole house is him," she said, and there she will stay, on the island where both grew up.

The Egans met in 1988 at the St. Patrick's Day parade, when an off-duty Egan struck up a conversation with Diane at a bar near the South Street Seaport. "He was in uniform," she remembered. "He was so handsome." He called two days later, and the the relationship began. They dated for four years before getting engaged. Sept. 17 would have marked their eighth wedding anniversary.

"We had a very nice, normal life," said his wife. The two hosted barbecues for friends and enjoyed spending time with their large extended families. "He had a wonderful sense of humor, and he was a wonderful father. Everything we did, we were always on the same page, the same goals. We were just happy being together."

Egan, a physical man who enjoyed skiing and ran in the New York City Marathon, loved the camaraderie of the firehouse and rose quickly through the ranks, becoming a captain at 36. Both of his brothers are firefighters, and the pleasure Egan took in his work spurred some of his friends from the neighborhood, like Mahon, to join the department.

Mahon was working directly across from the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center at 1 a.m. Sept. 12 when Egan's brother Mark came by to tell him he was missing.

"My whole body was drained," Mahon said. "At the time, I had no tears left. Since then I've had plenty. We all took knowledge from him," he said. "He showed us the way."

-- Jennifer Smith (Newsday)