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Thread: The Firefighting Hero Whose Life Was Destroyed By A Chance Photo

  1. #1
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    Post������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ The Firefighting Hero Whose Life Was Destroyed By A Chance Photo


    Copyright 2001 The Scotsman Publications Ltd.
    The Scotsman...12/26/2001

    WHEN fireman Mike Kehoe was photographed running up the stairs of the World Trade Centre to rescue victims trapped above him, he became an icon for people who wanted to believe that something good could have come out of the tragedy.

    The picture appeared in newspapers around the world, but Mr Kehoe's fate was unknown. Most people assumed he had perished trying to save others.

    The truth, however, was that moments after the 33-year-old was snapped by a fleeing worker on the 28th floor, he turned round and headed back down the stairs to safety.

    He survived the fall of the twin towers, but he has been unable to escape the burdens of fame. Three months on, Mr Kehoe says he wishes the picture had never been taken.

    Overwhelmed by the stress of his fame and plagued by guilt that he survived when thousands died, his colleagues have shunned him and his wife has been plagued by questions from people who saw the picture and assume she is a widow. He receives fan mail from obsessed women and from mothers who say he has become a role model for their children.

    The photograph which changed Mr Kehoe's life was taken by John Labriola, who had an office on the 71st floor of Tower One. Mr Kehoe appears wide-eyed and slightly dazed, but no-one else is paying him much attention. Since it was published, no-one has stopped paying him attention.

    Mr Kehoe, however, is embarrassed he has been hailed as a hero when colleagues who died or did more than him are still unknown.

    "I saved one person that day, and that was me," he said. "And it was by running for my life."

    Afterwards, he admitted, his biggest concern was for his 31-year-old wife, Edra, who worked as a radiographer and often visited the World Trade Centre.

    As luck would have it she was not there on 11 September, but when she realised what had happened, she raced to his fire station and waited for news. The couple were reunited half-an-hour after he rang to tell her he was safe and that he loved her.

    Mr Kehoe and his wife were alive, but six of his colleagues at the East Village fire station in Manhattan failed to get out of the towers in time.

    The members of Mr Kehoe's crew all survived, but the other crew from the station - Mike Quilty, Rich Kelly, Matt Rogan, Edward Day, Mike Cammarata and John Heffernan - perished.

    Mr Kehoe believes those who survived resent the hero-worship he received for being photographed and he has taken time off work for stress, partly brought on by feeling bad that he does not feel worse.

    He said: "I feel guilty, like I should be having nightmares, or I should be feeling more. I mean, how come I'm happy about surviving?"

    The resentment by other firefighters is strong. A magazine writer preparing a profile received a call saying: "The real hero is not in that picture".

    Things got so tense at the fire station that Lieutenant Jimmy Rallis, a higher-ranking officer, began pulling the men aside.

    "I told them they should stop giving him crap because these photographs have a long history. The guy in the Baby Jessica picture killed himself," says Lt Rallis, referring to a fireman in Texas who pulled a baby from a well in 1987 and committed suicide eight years later. "Mike didn't ask for his picture to be taken, and he doesn't need any more pressure because of it. It scares me."

    His colleagues may not be happy about it, but to many other people, Mr Kehoe is a hero, whether he likes it or not. One obsessed fan - "Judy C from New Hampshire" - wrote almost daily on stationery emblazoned with pink hearts and drove several hours just to see him in the flesh.

    A woman from Australia wrote that her three-year-old son, Laughlin, said his prayers each night to the photo: "You are the face that my son has identified as his hero," she added.

    And a man from Florida wrote, "Your picture helped convey to the world how average Americans have always performed since our beginnings."

    Rosanne Cacciarelli Wise, a teacher who had Mr Kehoe visit her pupils after they raised money for the lost firefighters' relatives, said: "Before 11 September, a hero to these children was Superman on TV. After everything awful that happened, they need some good to come out of it, and he has been that for them the last few months.

    "They need a hero they can see and touch."

    Mr Kehoe, whose father was also a fireman, is struggling to adapt to normal life against a backdrop of extraordinary circumstances.

    He and his colleagues are still attending call-outs in a borrowed vehicle because their own vehicle, Engine 28, was destroyed on 11 September.

    When he gets home, he and Mrs Kehoe wade through the sacks of mail which arrive at his home every day. They keep it in a green bin in their living room, and take it in turns to write the replies.

    On Christmas Eve, Mr Kehoe was featured in the US's prestigious Time magazine. It has been a long three months for the fireman who, as a child, used to run crying whenever he heard the wail of a fire siren.




    Mari
    No matter what people say, you are a TRUE HERO!
    Last edited by Mari; 12-28-2001 at 01:32 AM.

  2. #2
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    All The MORE A Hero!!

    Just the fact that Firefighter Mike Kehoe was IN that stairway going UP, after the building had been hit by a PASSENGER PLANE boggles my mind! Many Firefighters DID start up those stairs, and also turned around when immenient danger became apparent. Thank God he and they weren't further up. What if he, and all those others DIDN'T turn around and go back? Wasn't the total of 334 Firefighters lost enough? We NEED Mike Kehoe and all the survivors! Their time on this earth is not up yet, and they'll live to demonstrate their greatness, heroism, and living up to their name -"New York's BRAVEST"!!
    Sister Francis/Carmelite Sisters
    "The Difference...is Love" (sm)

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