Eighteen years have passed since FDNY firefighter Michael Haub died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but on Sept. 6, just days before the tragedy’s anniversary, the New York City Chief Medical Examiner’s Office announced that it had identified more of his remains from the debris of the World Trade Center’s south tower.
“He was always late,” his friend Matthew McGowan joked at a memorial service for Haub on Sept. 10. “As you can see today, almost 18 years later, here’s Michael again.”
The Franklin Square native, 34, had been a member of Manhattan Ladder Company 4 for only a few months when he and 14 other firefighters from Engine 54 braved the initial wreckage to help save the lives of 15,000 people before the towers collapsed. Those 15 men could not, however, save themselves.
“He wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else than where he was that day,” Haub’s wife, Erika, previously said. As a result of the attacks, she suddenly became a young widow and a single mother to 4-year-old Michael Andreas and 16-month-old Kiersten, who had called her father “Dada” for the first time that day.
Today Michael Andreas is a Marine corporal, and Kiersten is studying to become a pediatric physical therapist. Erika has remarried and is living upstate. Together with the FDNY, the family planned a memorial service for Haub after the news broke about his remains.
During the ceremony, FDNY officers lined the walls of the chapel at Krauss Funeral Home in Franklin Square, with photos of the family and Haub’s uniform in the front of the room, next to his red, white and blue urn.
“We made a promise to you, Michael and Kiersten . . . that we would not only always remember and never forget your father,” said FDNY Chaplain Christopher Keenan, “but we would always remember and never forget both of you.”
He told them about the sacrifice their father made for the country, relating it to a Bible passage in which Jesus said that people cannot display greater love than when they lay down their lives for others. “And so that’s what we’re here to remember and to celebrate,” Keenan said.
He read a speech that FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge gave to firefighters before he died in the attacks. “‘You get on the rig, and you go out and you do the job — which is a mystery and a surprise,” he read. “You have no idea when you get on that rig, no matter how big the call, no matter how small. You have no idea what God is calling you to. But He needs you.’”
Haub began his firefighting career as a volunteer with Roslyn Heights Highlands Co., where he served for almost 15 years. While there he worked his way up to captain, and took part in the Avianca airplane crash rescue and recovery efforts in January 1990.
He became a member of the FDNY in 1999, initially as a member of Ladder 130 and then as a member of Ladder 4.
“Mike lived a life of service,” said McGowan, who served with Haub in Roslyn Heights. “He was always more than happy to help.”
Haub kept that attitude even as an FDNY firefighter. Eddie Coyle, a member of Ladder 4, said Haub was always willing to learn and told his children that although Haub was only with the company for a short time, he “made a great impression on us.”
“There’s so many guys we lost,” Coyle said of the tragedy. “Actually, we haven’t lost them, we know right where they are — they’re in our hearts.”
Following the service, mourners stepped outside the funeral home to see FDNY firefighters and a fire truck lining Schrer Boulevard, where a giant American flag hung over the street.
Firefighters then handed Michael his father’s helmet, and the family got into white FDNY vans. As they drove away, the firefighters and elected officials saluted, while bagpipers played a somber rendition of “America the Beautiful.”