A Hero Loving Every Part of the Job

September 24, 2001

William L. Henry, a New York City firefighter for the past 20 years, had finished his tour of duty on the morning of Sept. 11 and was preparing to go home when the World Trade Center disaster struck.

Henry, known to most as "Buddy," jumped on a rig leaving his fire station at 43rd Street and 11th Avenue on Manhattan's West Side and raced to the scene. The Springfield Gardens resident was one of three firefighters from Rescue 1 who lost their lives in the building collapse. Eight other firefighters from that same station are missing.

"He loved the job with all his heart," recalls his mother, Ethel. "He was off duty at 9 that morning but he went to the fire. He didn't have to go, but he went."

Friends and family say Henry, 49, a quiet, helpful man brought his skills as a contractor during his off hours to his job as a city firefighter. "He was very hard-working and talented," said Lt. Michael Pena, who recalled how Henry had a knack for setting up electrical wires or solving electrical problems during rescue attempts.

"He was one of our family," Pena said late last week. "We lived with him, ate with him and hung out with him. He was more than a co-worker. He was part of our family."

Henry was equally skilled at making friends and colleagues feel at home, said Ray Kemp, a friend in Jamaica, Queens, who played paddle tennis with him on weekends. When he was assigned to a fire station across from St. Francis of Assissi Church in Midtown Manhattan a few years ago, Henry would volunteer on his off hours in the church's soup kitchen.

"Being a firefighter was Buddy's main passion," said his mother. "He loved every part of it - the rescues, fighting fires, being with the fellows. He had an overwhelming love for the job. He never went to work late. Even after work, they'd go out and laugh and have a good time. This is what he did best."

On Thursday, a memorial service was held at St. Francis, where Henry had been a volunteer and made many friends. His body was buried at Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens. In addition to his mother, Henry is survived by his sister, Ellen, and a grandmother, Elsie.

-- Thomas Maier (Newsday)