New buddy for 9/11 quest

But chief's not the one he helped save


Louis Cacchioli thought that he had answered the question nagging at him since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

For more than a year, the retired firefighter looked for the fire chief whose life he helped save on that deadly day.

A haunting image of the rescue appeared in the Aug. 14, 2002, Daily News.

The dramatic moment, captured on film by News lensman Thomas Monaster, showed Cacchioli helping a battered fire chief out of the fiery ruins with the help of an unidentified NYPD cop.

Recently, a friend and colleague, retired Firefighter Jim Carney, 56, told Cacchioli he might have found his guy.

Cacchioli learned that retired Fire Chief Ed Henry, 63, of the 40th Battalion, had been pinned under debris on Sept. 11 and pulled to safety by firefighters.

In the narrow universe of fire chiefs, Henry easily could have been Cacchioli's man. Henry bears a striking resemblance to the white-helmeted figure in the Monaster photograph.

But Henry wasn't that man.

Over glasses of red wine and brick oven pizza at a restaurant in Bensonhurst last week, Cacchioli and Henry studied the photograph, which shows the men hustling away from thick clouds of smoke and an exploding Ground Zero.

The number on the unidentified chief's helmet was obscured by smoke and glare.

"We are going to find him," vowed Cacchioli, who worked at Engine 47 in Morningside Heights. "I want [to find] him to answer some questions I have about what we did together that day. I'm hoping he can help me put two and two together."

As Cacchioli and Henry traded recollections of floors pancaking above their heads and buildings cascading into dust at their feet, the men recognized that they experienced the same nightmare and - more importantly - survived the horror.

"You need to talk to someone who understands the situation," Cacchioli said. "I know by listening to his voice he was there when I was there."

For Henry, whose son, Firefighter Joseph Henry, 25, of Ladder 21, died on 9/11, it is consoling to meet and talk with firefighters such as Cacchioli who survived that grim day.

"It's very comforting," said Henry, who struggles with every survivor's question. Henry said he will forever puzzle over why he survived that day after 40 years on the job and his rookie firefighter son died after 11 months.

"He was smart," Henry proudly said of Joseph Henry.

Cacchioli said he still hopes to find his man, but said the camaraderie he has found with his firefighter brothers keeps him going.

"I don't care if it's him. It's good therapy for me," Cacchioli said. "He [Henry] is still my brother."

Originally published on December 23, 2003

Fated: Louis Cacchioli (l.) got tip from Jim Carney (center) that Ed Henry (r.) might be fire chief Cacchioli aided on 9/11, captured by Daily News' Thomas Monaster (below). But Henry wasn't the one.