Today, Stephen Healy of Stony Brook is a college graduate working his way towards a master's degree in business at Stony Brook University. But this time ten years ago, Healy was an active New York City firefighter who was working the day tour in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, on the morning of Sept. 11.
Healy's company responded, and he was badly injured during the initial collapse of the first tower that day, carried by a fellow firefighter to safety after sustaining injuries to his back and hands. He would undergo several surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy, but emerged with a new kind of determination.
Healy later made three trips to Washington, D.C. to advocate on behalf of first responders and recovery crews who became ill while working at Ground Zero. In 2009, equipped with an inhaler for the asthma he developed after exposure at Ground Zero, he even ran a marathon.
"It took me six hours," he said, "but it was more of a quest."
Not unlike his educational journey, after which he hopes to make an entrepreneurial move of some kind. But, he said, so many first responders and recovery workers can't move forward in the ways he's been able to because they've gotten sick.
"I’m fortunate," said Healy, 50, who retired from the FDNY in 2002 as a lieutenant after nearly 20 years of service. "I kind of look at myself as the other side of that. Hopefully people could get a little bit of inspiration knowing that somebody was down there and was exposed to that and has pushed back a little bit."