Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Stellar Contents - Photography NATHAN ED­WARDS Words SARAH BLAKE

How the fam­i­lies of Septem­ber 11 emer­gency work­ers are fol­low­ing in their loved ones’ foot­steps.

When a fire starts in New York City, emer­gency ra­dios break out in grav­elly chatter. In be­tween the crackle is the de­tail: what, where, who’s there, what they need.

On Tues­day, Septem­ber 11, 2001, at 8.46am, as this static blared into a sunny au­tumn morn­ing, fire­fight­ers across the city turned as one to­wards down­town. In the next hour, with com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems down, the scene turned to chaos as the Twin Tow­ers col­lapsed.

Of the 2977 vic­tims that morn­ing, 411 were “first re­spon­ders” from the fire depart­ment, NYPD, paramedics and the Port Au­thor­ity. Each left some­one be­hind. While some of those fam­ily mem­bers have just sur­vived, a hand­ful of them have ded­i­cated their lives and changed their paths to pay trib­ute to their loved ones by fol­low­ing in their foot­steps.

Meet the lega­cies.

Chief Jim Riches,


FOR­MER FIRE CHIEF Jim Riches is a pas­sion­ate advocate for the vic­tims of 9/11 and is bat­tling res­pi­ra­tory distress syn­drome, which he be­lieves comes from the toxic dust that blan­keted Ground Zero for months and has now killed more fire­fight­ers than died in 2001.

His el­dest son, Jim Riches Jnr, 29, was killed in the North Tower col­lapse, and now Jimmy’s three younger broth­ers, Timmy, Tommy and Danny, have fol­lowed him into the fire depart­ment.

Jim and his sons searched for months for Jimmy’s body, fi­nally find­ing him the fol­low­ing March.

“We were down there ev­ery day with rakes and shov­els, just pick­ing up piece af­ter piece,” he says. “The cranes would move it all and drop it and we would look through it. We just smelt death ev­ery day and that’s the way it was.

“When we found him, he was 50 feet [15m] be­low street level, and he had been on the sixth, sev­enth floor. That’s how far they were pushed down.”

The grief is still very raw for Jim and his wife Rita, who says she has lost count of the num­ber of funer­als they have been to for young men who died like their son, be­fore their par­ents, “up­set­ting the nat­u­ral or­der of things”.

“It’s ex­haust­ing,” she says. “You could cry ev­ery day.”

Louis Tor­res, RES­CUE 4 IN QUEENS Danny Tor­res, LAD­DER 124 IN CROWN HEIGHTS

LIEU­TENANT LOUIS TOR­RES, 53, likes to say he was dis­ap­pointed when his son Danny quit his Wall Street job to join the fire depart­ment, but he’s ac­tu­ally pretty chuffed.

“He didn’t give me any signs un­til about a week be­fore he was to go into the pro­ba­tional school, then he told me. I was sur­prised. I was a bit up­set with him, but I am proud of him,” says Louis.

“I told him to take it real se­ri­ous. This is not Wall Street – it can be dan­ger­ous and you need to take this oc­cu­pa­tion as a se­ri­ous, se­ri­ous job.”

As a child, Danny liked to ride in his fa­ther’s fire truck, but when he was 11 he watched him come home a lit­tle qui­eter each day for eight months af­ter 9/11, as he worked the re­cov­ery zone. “Dur­ing those days and months, I didn’t get to see him much,” says the 25-year-old. “He was tired com­ing home and he wasn’t re­ally the same. He kept to him­self more and was al­ways tired.

“It was watch­ing him through­out my life that told me I wanted to do this. I was in fi­nance for three years and it was fast-paced, but it was a bit bor­ing.

“But ev­ery day was a dif­fer­ent day for my fa­ther. One day at work was never the same as the last.

“I think my fa­ther is happy that I have fol­lowed him, and it’s a priv­i­lege for me to have him to fol­low.”

Josephine Smith


WHEN JOSEPHINE SMITH was young, the lit­tle girl who be­came the first fe­male legacy in New York’s fire depart­ment would mar­vel at her dad, the hero, count­ing the days un­til she could join him on the job. Af­ter work­ing with haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als for about 20 years, Kevin Smith, 47, per­ished af­ter rush­ing to the World Trade Cen­tre and has never been ac­counted for.

For Josephine, 36, there was never any ques­tion about what she would do when she grew up.

“My dad was def­i­nitely my hero. See­ing the type of per­son that he was, I wanted to be like him. Not even just at work – how he was in his life, with our fam­ily and friends, he was the guy who helped out,” she says. “He was there for ev­ery­body; ev­ery­body knew that and he was


the guy that you would call. So it wasn’t so much the job that I wanted to fol­low; it was him as a per­son, that’s who I wanted to be. I have re­ally big shoes to fill.

“It’s an hon­our to fol­low in my fa­ther’s foot­steps. Ev­ery day I am here, I try to make my fam­ily proud, and my dad’s friends as well.

“There are still guys on the job who knew my fa­ther and who knew me, as well, grow­ing up. Some of these guys I have known since I was a baby, so see­ing them on the job, that’s pretty cool. I like to think he would be very proud of me.”

Erin Cough­lin,


A FOR­MER TEACHER, Erin, 31, is the NYPD’S only fe­male legacy, hav­ing four years ago in­her­ited the badge num­ber of her fa­ther, Sgt John Cough­lin, who died on the 20th floor of the South Tower. She now frames de­ci­sions at work by ques­tion­ing how he would have han­dled each sit­u­a­tion, and feels a re­newed con­nec­tion to her fa­ther through their shared ex­pe­ri­ence.

“My fa­ther was a giant man, both in stature and per­son­al­ity. He was a huge teddy bear,” says Erin.

“I keep a photo of him in my hat and we keep our hats with us all the time, no mat­ter if we are in the car or on the street.

“He stays in there, so at any time he is al­ways with me. Ev­ery now and then, the hat might move in the back seat and I like to think that it’s him let­ting me know I need to slow down or I need to be care­ful.

“Now that I’m on the job, I know there are some things he didn’t bring home, to pro­tect us. He def­i­nitely told us all the ex­cit­ing things – the kids he might have saved, that sort of thing. But I know now there are parts of the job he didn’t talk about, be­cause we go from see­ing the best of hu­man­ity to the worst, and it can tear your heart out. And there are jobs where you can’t be­lieve that peo­ple can do such things.

“Ev­ery­thing I have done, he is the first thing in my mind. Ev­ery de­ci­sion I have made, I keep in mind what he taught me. I know he is sit­ting up there beam­ing that I am here do­ing this.”

Matt Allen, BROOK­LYN LAD­DER 147 Luke Allen, BROOK­LYN LAD­DER 105

AMONG THE MOST ju­nior fire­fight­ers to die in 9/11, Richie Allen was one of six pro­ba­tion­ary of­fi­cers who hadn’t yet been as­signed to a sta­tion. The 31-yearold was also one of the first to ar­rive that morn­ing, and per­ished in the North Tower. The old­est of six broth­ers, he was fol­lowed into ser­vice by Matt, now 31, and Luke, 35.

Luke, a for­mer teacher and life­guard, says sign­ing up was a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion: “I al­ways knew I wanted to do some­thing no­ble, that if I was go­ing to spend a lot of hours in a day

work­ing, I wanted to do some­thing that was for the greater good.

“I never would have con­sid­ered my­self a fire buff, but now my younger brother has also joined we’re con­stantly shoot­ing sto­ries back and forth about dif­fer­ent runs and dif­fer­ent fires we have been to. My older brother, he would have loved all of that. He would have loved be­ing in on all that, show­ing me the way.

“To have all three of us on the job would have been amaz­ing. Ob­vi­ously that wasn’t the uni­verse’s plan, but some­times I do feel him smil­ing down on me, def­i­nitely.”

The youngest of six, Matt was a se­nior in high school in 2001 and had sev­eral jobs be­fore be­com­ing a fire­fighter two years ago in trib­ute to his brother.

“He was the first of all of us,” says Matt. “So, pretty much any­thing and ev­ery­thing that I re­mem­ber about him is that he shaped me. Ev­ery­thing I did: mu­sic; when I got my hair cut like a lit­tle punk-rock kid; you know, skate­board­ing. Grow­ing up, ev­ery­thing you want to do is [be­cause] you want to please him; you want to hang out with your older brother.

“I re­mem­ber when I was six or seven years old, play­ing foot­ball, and I would try to tackle my other sib­lings just so he would recog­nise it.

“He shaped and set the stage for a lot of the things I do to­day. I wanted to be just like him, I re­ally did. I know he is proud of me. Where I am at to­day, and who I have be­come since the loss of my brother, is some­thing I know he is look­ing at me and just smil­ing on.” Michael Stack,


LIKE AL­MOST HALF of those who per­ished in 9/11, Bat­tal­ion Chief Lawrence Stack’s body was never found in the waste­land of Ground Zero, and it was only this year that his fam­ily was able to hold a me­mo­rial ser­vice for him. With no re­mains iden­ti­fied, they in­stead re­cov­ered a blood sam­ple the 58-year-old do­nated shortly be­fore his death and it was buried with full hon­ours in June.

Back in 2001, his el­dest son, Michael, was a ju­nior fire­fighter. He spent months comb­ing the wreck­age along­side his younger brother, Brian, who was a cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer at Rik­ers Is­land. It was dur­ing this search that Brian was re­cruited to the fire depart­ment.

“I have been a fire­fighter since 2002,” says Brian, 44.

“My fa­ther was a fire­man, my grand­fa­ther was a fire­man and I had a lot of un­cles and cousins who were on the job. It was never forced on me. My fa­ther would never say to me, ‘You have to be a fire­man.’

“But I was down at Ground Zero for a cou­ple of months. We started dig­ging and then I spent all that time with the fire depart­ment and it was a nat­u­ral tran­si­tion. I was down there dig­ging and one day they said, ‘That’s it, you’re com­ing to the depart­ment,’ and then that was it. “I think he would be very proud.” Michael, 46, says his fa­ther died do­ing what he loved, hav­ing raced to Ground Zero af­ter see­ing the sec­ond plane crash into the South Tower.

“They were in the Brook­lyn Navy Yard and they went up to the roof level and [saw] the sec­ond plane hit, and my fa­ther puts his binoc­u­lars down, turns to his guys and says, ‘I think they are go­ing to need us,’” ex­plains Michael.

“He was caught in the first col­lapse and he helped get a cou­ple of peo­ple out. My fa­ther was ac­tu­ally pinned to a wall and he couldn’t get out af­ter the South Tower came down. He was caught in this wall and he had to wig­gle out of his coat, and he left his coat be­hind. So the only thing we did find was his coat.

“As he was get­ting ev­ery­one out, he came across a large man who had a sev­ered Achilles ten­don and was ly­ing on the ground.

“My fa­ther stayed [with him] and then the [North] Tower came down, and that’s the story. He would never have left that guy there, never.”


HIS FA­THER’S SON Louis Tor­res and his son Danny, who has fol­lowed him into



DUTY BOUND Erin Cough­lin, who wears her fa­ther’s badge num­ber.

FAM­ILY TIES Matt (hold­ing a por­trait of brother Richie) and Luke Allen.

BROTH­ERS Michael (left) and Brian Stack.

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