KINGSTON – Ryan O’Leary was a New York City fireman on Sept. 11, 2001, and he rushed from his home in the Town of Ulster to Manhattan, where he found his cousin injured from the terrorist attack that killed 343 firefighters trying to save those trapped in the World Trade Center.
“I looked for my cousin who’s a firefighter,” said O’Leary. “I revived him, and he’s alive today.”
O’Leary comes from a family that has served in the fire service, including his father and grandfather, and he said he encountered chaos when saved his cousin’s life.
“It was really traumatic,” he said, “a lot of dust and frantic people.”
O’Leary was at Kingston’s Firemen’s Park Wednesday to honor those firefighters who died that day along with others who also paid their respect to those who fell on that day 18 years ago.
“We take a moment to honor those who were willing in a moment of crisis and danger, not to run away but run toward danger and put their lives at risk and in many cases give their lives to protect their fellow citizens and human beings,” said Pat Ryan, Ulster County executive. “That speaks to our testament as Americans and to the spirit of what being human is all about.”
Ryan reminded everyone that unity surfaced from the carnage on that day – instead of the divisiveness that was supposed to be the goal of the terrorists who commandeered and crashed the four jetliners that took the lives of nearly 3,000 people on that day.
“We were resilient. Instead of being divided we came together,” he said. “I encourage all to remember that spirit of unity and that we cannot be divided. Our greatest strength is unity as Americans.”
As a fireman, O’Leary said the fire service creates a unified brotherhood that he has shared with family and the others with whom he served.
“They look after everybody,” he said, “and that’s the way it should be.”