Steamfitter Turned Firefighter 'Built' Towers

September 21, 2001

Thomas W. Kelly's 51st birthday would have been on Sept. 18. But one week earlier, he was lost in the debris of the towers he helped build.

"Tom was a steamfitter for Local 638 in 1970 and built the Trade Center," said his wife, Kitty. He joined the fire department in March 1984 and worked for Ladder 15 down on South Street the whole time.

"He was trained to deal with high-rise fires, they had the greatest training, but this wasn't just a fire," Kitty Kelly said. "This was an act of war."

The Kellys grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and moved to Livingston on Staten Island about 18 years ago. Tom Kelly attended St. Francis of Assisi grammar school and Nazareth High School. Kitty Kelly said that firefighters call every day, and she is very appreciative of the support from the mayor, the governor and everyone else.

"They've set up funds and told us they will take care of us and that our children will have the best education." The Kellys have two sons, Thomas and Frank.

"I'm so glad that I was able to attend the mass at St. Patrick's last week," Kitty Kelly said. "It helped me understand that God works in strange ways. But one thing I feel very strongly about : They should not rebuild the Trade Center. There should just be a memorial."

-- Steve Zipay (Newsday)