Michael Cawley, 32, always wanted to be a firefighter. His dad used to take him to visit Rescue 4, Ladder 163 and Engine 292, just blocks from his house. He loved those visits and climbing into those trucks. He joined the FDNY in 1995.
Just a couple months before 9/11, Cawley was hoisted up to cut a man free who had been dangling unconscious from the electrical lines he’d been repairing. He brought him down to safety and saved his life. The medal he received as a commendation for valor was presented to his family posthumously after 9/11.
Regularly assigned to Ladder 136 that shares a firehouse with Rescue 4 and Haz-Mat Company 1, that Tuesday morning, Michael had just finished covering a shift at Engine Co. 292. He had been relieved early but stopped to have breakfast that morning with Rescue 4. When the call came in, he joined them for the ride in to Manhattan.
Cawley’s brother had been planning to move to California. After 9/11 he stayed in NY and joined the FDNY instead. He came close to losing his own life in a fire in 2005, but took three years to recover and returned to the force.