9/11 heroes finally united

By PAUL H.B. SHIN and DON SINGLETON
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS


Louis Cacchioli saw himself in the Daily News more than a year ago, in a photo showing him helping a fellow firefighter escape from the World Trade Center collapse.

Yesterday, he finally met the man he rescued.

The dramatic moment in the chaos of Sept. 11, 2001, was captured on film by veteran Daily News photographer Thomas Monaster, but was not used in the paper's coverage of the event.

The photo was published on Aug. 14, 2002, to illustrate a story about upcoming television broadcasts marking the anniversary of the terrorist attack.

"I recognized myself right away, but I didn't remember doing this, helping someone," Cacchioli said. "Then it started coming back to me and I was stunned."

Cacchioli, a 20-year firefighter who retired from Engine 47 in Harlem in February 2002, studied the photo, trying to determine the identity of the man he and an unidentified cop had helped to get away.

Cacchioli contacted Monaster, who helped him view an enlarged version of the photo, which showed more details. The number on the helmet meant it belonged to Battalion Chief Ed Henry.

Someone contacted Henry, who retired from Battalion 40 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in September of last year after 40 years on the job. But when Cacchioli and Henry got together, they quickly determined that while the helmet was Henry's, the man wearing it was not.

Henry recognized the man, however. It was a guy Henry had worked with a dozen years ago: Battalion Chief Mike Telesca, 46, who retired last May from the 19th Battalion in the Bronx.

Yesterday, Cacchioli and Telesca finally had the reunion both men had been hoping for since the publication of Monaster's photo.

It took place at Casey's Sports Bar on E. Tremont Ave. in Throgs Neck, the Bronx, with many smiles and hugs all around.

"I was determined," Cacchioli said. "I wanted to find out. I wanted him to be alive."

"I remembered two firemen holding me," said Telesca, who was off duty on 9/11 and had grabbed the first helmet he saw "because there was still stuff raining down" from the north tower after the south tower had collapsed.

The two men agreed that in a strange way, each helped to save the other's life. Cacchioli helped Telesca hobble out, and that action kept Cacchioli away from the collapse of the second tower.

"I was really happy - it was a good Christmas present," Telesca said.

"It's like talking to someone who knows what I've been through," said Henry, who had a son, Firefighter Joseph Henry, 25, of Ladder 21, who was killed on 9/11. Henry has two other sons, Ed Jr. and Michael, both lieutenants who are still on the job.

"We were the luckiest people," Henry said yesterday. "We got out alive."

Originally published on December 28, 2003

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