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Jim Corley
  Irish Voice  


Background
Originally from Co. Mayo. Emigrated to the US in 1985. Resides in Queens.

Family
Wife Benita; five-and-half-year-old son Conor; six-month-old daughter Araceli.

FDNY background
"I was always curious about the job, and wanted to see what it was like. I took the test in 1987, and was on the job in 1991. It's a great job. I think people have always appreciated what we've done, now more than ever."

Describe your September 11 experience
"That morning I was at my firehouse; my first day back on the job had been September 10. I was out for a year after knee surgery, but I was working on light duty during that time. I got down to the World Trade Center about 11 that morning with other firefighters who were called in.

"The devastation was unbelievable. There was zero visibility. It reminded me of a bad snowstorm. It looked like the end of the world.

"We were organized into various groups to check out the perimeter of the buildings. We couldn't go in to most of the buildings because they were still burning. A few companies were operating on the buildings still on fire, but every time we moved in they put us back because they were afraid of other collapses.

"It was total chaos, and impossible to believe that the towers were down. There was nothing you could do until they figured that the buildings were stable. At six o'clock in the evening we were finally able to go in and start working on the wreckage."

What have your days been like since?
"In the first two weeks I spent a lot of time down there, but it's quieted down now. I can see the mayor's point that the clean-up job has to get completed, but it's important to be sensitive to the victims too. You have to understand their situation. They want to recover as many people as they can. In my own firehouse we lost three members. I'd say I knew 20 guys who died that day."

Are you proud to be a firefighter?
"Absolutely. You're grateful to be able to still do your job; other guys didn't get that chance. It was just the grace of God that I wasn't down there when the towers collapsed. In my previous 10 years I went to about three firefighter funerals a year. But now, unfortunately, it's much more than that."

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