'He Wouldn't Have Wanted to Be Anywhere Else'

October 9, 2001

Today would have been their 20th wedding anniversary, Theresa Healey said, her voice cracking.

Instead of a celebration, the mother of three is preparing for a memorial service for her husband, Michael K. Healey, a lieutenant in Fire Squad 41 in the Bronx.

Healey, 42, is among hundreds of missing firefighters since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and one of six in his own squad.

"He wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else," said Theresa Healey, who lives in East Patchogue with her three children - Michael, 17, Katie, 15, and Matthew, 12. "That's what he did.

"'That's our job,' he would have said."

For more than 18 years, Michael Healey did what he loved most: fighting fires with the men who were like his second family.

Theresa Healey remembers when the World Trade Center was on fire in 1993. Her husband was on vacation, at home watching his comrades battle the flames on television, rattling off their names to his wife.

"He was like a cat pacing because he wanted nothing but to be there," Theresa Healey said.

Michael Healey met Theresa in Massapequa Park, where the two grew up. He was 17; she was 16. She was immediately attracted to the "good- looking Irish man with the big smile with dimples."

They went to each other's proms and dated for more than five years before marrying in 1981.

"My husband did everything," Theresa Healey said. "He did the cooking, he did the cleaning, he did the laundry. He took the kids here and there. He helped my son with the car ... "

And the couple always made time for "date night," where once a week they go out for dinner, grab a beer or do something as simple as grocery shopping.

The Healey family is slowly adjusting to a life without the mild-mannered firefighter who coached lacrosse and ran in almost every race on Long Island.

Having family, friends and firefighters by their side has been a source of support. "He always said, 'Don't worry. You'll be well taken care of,'" Theresa said.

And she is, noting that her husband's fellow firefighters are always calling, always visiting, remaining a part of her life.

Now, the 41-year-old is beginning to pick out songs and scriptures for a memorial service. Though, still, she holds on to hope.

"I haven't given up hope yet," she said. "But my hope is changing from hoping he'll walk through the door, to hoping they'll find him in the hospital to hoping they find his body. ...I just hope they find his body. It would be so much easier to have that."

-- Sumathi Reddy (Newsday)