9/11 – Remembering Firefighter Danny Suhr, killed by a falling body
Member of Engine Co. 216, he left behind his wife and two-year-old daughter.
Each year on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks I try to remember something that I took away from the day that has stayed with me, or that I’ve learned since.
Among the many anniversary posts, I’ve written about the recording that Melissa Harrington Hughes left on her home answering machine for her husband, 9/11/01 and Memory:
And the sound of the PASS (Personal Alert Safety System) alarms worn by firemen, which continued chirping after the buildings collapsed, each one representing a life lost. I never have been able to erase that sound from my memory:
I’ve written about IDF Veteran Danny Lewin, the first person killed on 9/11/2001 and in 2014, just days after her stroke, I re-ran Mandy’s 2013 post, 9/11 and the importance of loved ones:
September 11th taught me the importance of family and loved ones in our lives, as well as the compassion of those we may not know, and that we can never, ever take life for granted. So many were not as lucky as my family on that day, and my thoughts will forever be with them.
Separate from the anniversary posts, I wrote about FDNY Squad 1 Memorial, Park Slope, Brooklyn, which lost 12 then present plus 2 former members:
One thing I’ve mentioned before is that the images of people jumping from the burning buildings has stuck with me. To imagine being in such a position, knowing that to jump was to die, but to stay was to die. It’s bad enough to witness it on video, but to have witnessed it in person must have been many times more painful.
This year we remember all the people who fell on that day, but particularly Firefighter Daniel “Danny” Suhr, 37-years-old, the first documented NYFD member killed that day. Danny was killed as he rushed to the scene, and was hit by one of those falling bodies.
The transcribed interview with Captain Paul Conlon describes what happened. The NY Post reported in August 2013:
Emergency medical technician Richard Erdey recalled rushing from the scene in an ambulance with Daniel Suhr – who was hit by a falling body and became the first known FDNY fatality that day.
“I know he’s not going to make it . . . Anybody hit with a body from 70 stories up,” he said.
But Erdey said he couldn’t tell two of Suhr’s colleagues, who were in the ambulance, that there was no hope.
“They kept yelling, ‘Danny! Danny! Danny!’ . . . Should I tell them? How can I tell them tactfully . . . Please stop staring at him. You’re going to burn this image in your head . . .
“Even though it was a short ride, it was the longest ride.”
The fresh details were contained in 15 hours of audio tapes and 12,000 pages of transcripts of FDNY radio dispatches and accounts by surviving rescue workers of their frenzied efforts to save those trapped in the flames and debris of the stricken Twin Towers.
Fallen fire department Chaplain Rev. Mychal F. Judge administered last rites before he too was killed:
Early news accounts, repeated even recently, said that debris killed Father Judge as he was administering last rites to a firefighter who had been killed by a falling body.
The story was close. Father Judge did indeed anoint the firefighter, Daniel Suhr, said the firefighter’s widow, Nancy. But then he went back into the lobby of the north tower, she said witnesses told her, and was killed by falling material inside when the south tower collapsed. Witnesses and videotape recorded inside the lobby confirmed that he died there and not while giving last rites. Some firefighters speculated that he died of a heart attack, but Brian Mulheren, a retired New York City police detective who attended the autopsy, said Father Judge died of blunt trauma to the back of the head.
The event was described in this NatGeo documentary:
A page dedicated to his memory describes Danny Suhr:
Danny Suhr was the recipient of many nicknames. Captain America was one. Whenever he went out with friends, he would point to exit doors and tell them where to meet him if anything happened. He loved his job at Engine Company 216.
Danny was the first firefighter killed on 9/11. The firefighters of Engine 216 were some of the first responders to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. They were setting up near the south tower when a body jumping from Tower Two struck and killed Danny, who had been a firefighter since 1983.
Seven firefighters came to Suhr’s aid. Just minutes after he was rushed to Bellevue Hospital, the tower came crashing down. Danny and his fellow firefighters would have been in that tower if he had not been injured.
“He kept everyone safe,” said his wife, Nancy. “The other 7 firefighters stayed with him because they wouldn’t leave him behind,” his wife said. “Because they didn’t go in, he saved their lives.”
“We’re alive because of Danny,” firefighter Tony Sanseviro said. “It was almost like he knew,” firefighter Chris Barry said. “He didn’t look scared, but he knew it was bad.” Before Suhr died, he was the captain for the FDNY football team and the Brooklyn Mariners, a semi-pro team.
Pudgy Walsh, a decorated retired firefighter and legendary Brooklyn Mariners football coach, for whom Suhr played middle linebacker for 10 seasons, says he wasn’t surprised that Danny was the first one killed that day.
“Danny’s father was a firefighter. He has a brother who was a firefighter. A sister who was a cop. We are talking about a very tough, very brave, very dedicated family here,” Walsh says.
“Danny was one of the best human beings I’ve met in my time on this earth. The most complete player I coached in 54 years of coaching the Mariners. He was a great friend, a great firefighter, a devoted husband, and loving father. Losing Danny Suhr was a huge loss to this city.”
Danny left behind his wife, Nancy, whom he began dating in grammar school and their daughter, Brianna, then 2. Even though he was considered this big, brave firefighter, he could get fairly mushy over his 2-year-old daughter, Briana. He was terrified when she did things like run toward him too fast. “He loved her more than life itself,” Nancy said.
Danny Suhr is buried at Saint Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale, NY:Here is video of Danny Suhr’s memorial service:
Danny’s widow made this incredibly moving tribute to him:
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…. never forget…. Rest in peace…. l8fe life IS good… thank God for fr mychael judge….
I had never heard that story before. A friend of mine lost her fiance on 9/11 when he jumped out of one of the towers. My best friend growing up and a HS football teammate also were killed that day. I will NEVER forget.
May God bless and protect his, and all the other 9/11 victims’, souls.
I never heard that story. God bless him and all the brave firefighters and policemen and citizens who risked everything to save the victims of that infamous day. Never forget.
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