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A total of 343 firefighters
perished at the World Trade Center. They are
American folk heroes now, symbols of heroism
But 12 months ago, they weren’t icons. They
were regular guys, commuters mainly, men with
mortgages and lawn mowers.
What’s also been forgotten is that they were
survived not only by wives and children,
siblings and parents but by thousands of guys
just like them. Other firefighters who made it
through that day downtown, or who never got
there. Bob Simon reports.
60 Minutes II spent time this past year at
Ladder 3, where they lost 12 men—half its members.
The planes hit the World Trade Center right in the middle of a shift change and
many of those lost from Ladder 3 weren’t even on duty.
Eight-year veteran Mike Moran wasn’t working that day, but he wanted to
He raced in to the Trade Center from his home in Rockaway Beach but got caught
Imagine owing your life to a traffic jam.
He doesn’t consider himself lucky:
“Far from lucky, I think.
I mean—not lucky that I survived—I’m lucky that I knew all
Some people go through their entire lives without working with the caliber of
guys that I knew before Sept. 11.”
One of the guys he knew and lost that day was
his brother John, a Battalion Chief. “I
pictured us living side by side in the same
neighborhood for the rest of our lives. And
that’s—that’s gone now. I do look at it that
I was lucky to have him,” Moran says.
The nights and the days after the attack
became a muddle of searching and talking and
crying. Tears shed by men who before Sept. 11
did not do a lot of crying. Steve Browne was
the surviving senior officer.
“Just waking up every morning and being
like—this is not a dream, you know and you have
your morning cry and then you do what you
gotta do—you know? And before you know the
memorials and the funerals started and that
was just a whole ’nother thing on its own,”
The men who died left 16 children behind—16
children and wives, brothers, sisters,
parents. Ask anyone who’s ever lost an arm or
a leg... For a long time, you feel its still
there. That’s how the men of Ladder 3 felt
about their lost brothers.
“I think about them all the time. I think they
pull up in my driveway in a car and they they
all are in a car. I’ll be cutting my lawn, be
driving, cutting my lawn and I’m thinking
about these guys, going through my head—why
am I here and they’re gone,” says 15-year
veteran Jerry Brenkert.
Jimmy Wind spent 20 years at Ladder 3. He says
he misses some of the little things, like
playing foosball with Timmy McSweeney, a
father of two.
Says Wind: "Timmy and a bunch of the guys
would play and as they would score Timmy would
always let out a yell. You know, sometimes you
almost think you hear that once in a while—‘Whoooo.’
You know, nobody’s been playing it—it’s got
quite a bit of dust on it now.”
Mike Moran’s firefighter father died when Mike
was a teen-ager. Mike’s brother, John, became
his new father figure. And now he was gone
“I remember him telling me on the phone one
night that whenever he closed his eyes. all he
could say was ‘I lost my brother.’ That was
hard, hearing that from him,” says Peggy
Moran, Mike’s mother.
Brothers cannot be replaced. But replacements
had to be found for the men who died at Ladder
3. There was work to do. Replacements were
needed, but not necessarily wanted.
Brenkert didn’t want to see any new faces:
“And it seemed like, you know, it was tough to
come by—kind of to lose 12 guys in a
firehouse and all of a sudden, a couple of new
guys, and I didn’t like it. So, maybe I was
tough on ’em. I was angry—these guys are
gone and I had a lot of hate in me. A lot of
hate and anger.”
“You just kinda kept to yourself in the
beginning,” says Jerry Perrillo, a probie
assigned to Ladder 3.
The remains of only two men from Ladder 3 were
recovered by November. With no bodies to bury,
they had memorial services for the 10
others—the last one for Captain Paddy Brown. Brown
was a Fire Department legend. His specialty:
pulling people out of burning buildings.
Firefighters heard him reporting on Sept. 11
that Ladder 3 was trying to rescue people
somewhere around the 40th floor of the north
Says Moran: “Paddy had pretty detailed
instructions if he should ever die in a fire
what he wanted done. He had his place in
Central Park picked out where he wanted his
ashes spread. And his brother Mike was kind of
disappointed that we hadn’t found his body,
that we couldn’t fulfill this—it seemed like
his only real wish, like what he wanted done.
So the next best compromise he felt was if we
could plant a tree in his honor. So, we kind
of had a stealth mission in the middle of the
night, to go plant a tree.”
Moran thought that after that, he could begin
trying to return to routine. But the bodies of
their comrades began turning up late in
“And we started all over again,” says Brenkert.
“The funeral. You’d have a wake, then a
funeral and a burial and it started all over
You simply don’t come out of something like
this unchanged. For some of the survivors of
Ladder 3, the change was not only
psychological or spiritual. Some of the men
were moved to change the facts of their lives.
“I’ve since separated from my wife, and I’m
looking to have a better quality of life for
myself,” says Wind. “Now after this it makes
me realize how precious life is and what a
short time that we have on this earth."
Others went about it another way. Lieutenant
Steve Browne remembers sitting with Mike Moran
in the wreckage on the night of Sept. 12,
talking about Mike’s girlfriend, Donna…
“Mike started talking about how much Donna
meant to him and how she’s been great,” Browne
says. “We said some really nice things. And I
kind of said, ‘You should marry that
girl’—and he kind of looked at me and said—‘I’m
That marriage was the first time in a year
that the men of Ladder 3 had gotten together
for a happy occasion. And it was, at least in
“When I danced with my mother, and she said
something along the lines of—‘Oh your
brother would love this’—and that was pretty
much—we were both in tears after that,” says
And then summer came. While grief counselors
were still filing into the firehouse, the best
therapy seemed to be doing what they’d always
done: fighting fires.
The guys started paying attention to the new
guys, too. Perrillo says that the veterans
Brenkert says a brother of one of the fallen
firefighters gave him some good advice: "You
gotta let it go. I mean, it’s not their
fault—it’s not the new guys’ fault. They’re there
and these guys are gone."
One year after the fall, the heat is beginning
to pass. The colors beginning to change.
“Every time you think about something now with
the passage of time, it’s not all sad now,”
says Moran. “It’s not just that shock that
they’re gone. And it’s—you’re starting to
remember them with a smile on your
face—instead of being sad all the time.”
Pat was my neighbor.
A quiet guy who always smiled and said hello on the elevator.
And if anyone knows a Manhattan apartment building, that was a lot to get from
Before 9/11, I’m not sure how many people in the building knew about his
legendary reputation as a fireman, I know that I didn’t.
He was just “the friendly fireman from 11” to us—the guy who
helped a neighbor who was recuperating from a bad car accident, got
someone’s car started, gave someone a ride to work, gave a kid a boost to
push the elevator buttons, stuff like that.
Since last September 11th and particularly since
his memorial mass on 11/9, we’ve learned that
his good deeds around Stuyvesant Town were
nothing compared to what he did in his life.
Since last year, I’ve been making a concerted
effort to “Do a Paddy Brown” every day so that
his legacy will continue.
I think going forward,
I may even do it as a “Ladder 3” to honor the
twelve incredibly special men that were lost.
During the morning of Friday, September 13th, an
area near Stuyvesant Town will be dedicated to
Don’t know yet what time it will be.
It’s being coordinated by the office of City
Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. more info, contact
her pr person,
God Bless the twelve men lost on 9/11, their
families and the FDNY.
We think doing a “Paddy Brown” every day is a
brilliant idea—everyone should try it.