"And he always found the fire. Guys would tell me that he always found the fire," Ed Donnelly said of his brother, Kevin. He describes Kevin as a tough guy, a New York firefighter who on three separate occasions was awarded department medals.
Kevin was a lieutenant with Ladder 3 in Manhattan. When the north tower was hit, Ladder 3 started the rescue climb. Kevin may have made it to the 65th floor.
"I was contacted by a woman who told me that she met him on the 50th floor and he's very memorable - a handsome guy, as you've seen in the picture in his looks - and she offered him a Diet Coke as he was going up and she was coming down. And he said, 'That would just be a tease, m'am,' and he kept going up," Ed said.
When the north tower collapsed, 12 of the 25 men assigned to Ladder 3 were killed. Six months later, Kevin's body was the last to be recovered.
"Typical Kevin, last man out," Ed said. "He was the last recovered."
On Friday, Ed presented the Oak Brook Fire Department with the flag that covered Kevin's casket. It'll be flown there September 11th to mark the 10 year anniversary of the attacks and then returned.
"And I see men and women in uniform throughout the airports and I know they're serving because of what happened, and I think about my brother," Ed. He measures some of this in spiritual terms. He and his wife have a granddaughter. One goes out. One comes in.
Kevin's helmet shield is part of the 9-11 Museum in New York. So are the remains of Ladder 3's truck.
Ed thinks of his little brother, Kevin, every day with pride that can't be measured. In admiration for his brother's sacrifice, he explains how he looks up to Kevin as though the siblings' roles were reversed. "He was my older brother," he said, choking back tears.
Ed and his family will travel to New York for the 10th anniversary gathering. The financial gift from the Oakbrook Shopping Center, which gave $5,000 to a memorial fund for Ladder 3 firefighters killed on 9/11, will help finance what will surely be an emotional event. Despite the passage of a decade, the recollections are fresh and the connections are many for those who lost loved ones in the terror attacks.