9/11 hero and firefighter takes pleas to social media in order to retrieve his stolen helmet
By Brett Gillin
Michael O’Connell was one of the brave men who ran toward the Twin Towers when so many where running for their lives in the opposite direction. The 39-year-old New York Firefighter will tell you what almost every firefighter would surely agree with: one of the things that is most important, and brings about the most sentimentality to the men and women who fight fires for a living, is their helmet.
When O’Connell was forced to retire due to poor health back in 2009, he took his helmet, with the number ‘142’ emblazoned across the front, with him as a reminder of his service. Then, in 2012, a spineless burglar broke in to O’Connell’s home and made off with cash, computers, jewelry, and perhaps the most devastating of all, his helmet.
According to this article in CBS New York, O’Connell has spent years looking for his helmet to no avail, so he’s decided to turn to social media in the hopes that spreading the word will help him get this prized piece of his past back. “Every fireman knows what the helmet means to them,” O’Connell told reporters. “In fires, collapses, a day like Sept. 11, it’s something that you hold dear to you.”
So O’Connell turned to Facebook to help spread the word. “This was my FDNY helmet I wore my entire career including 9/11/01,” O’Connell wrote on his Facebook Timeline. “It was stolen from my home a while back. I know it’s a long shot, but if enough people share maybe it turns up or is sent back so I can keep it in my family! Thanks!”
For his part, O’Connell isn’t even looking for punishment or retribution for the brazen act of theft. Instead, he would be fine if the helmet just “appeared” back at his house one day. “They can come, put it on my front step, walk away. No questions asked,” O’Connell told reporters. “I just want the helmet back.”
While O’Connell looks for the helmet that he hopes to pass along to his son one day, he also faces a daily battle with sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis is an autoimmune disease that is, unfortunately, more than a little common with first responders who worked at Ground Zero after 9/11. But rather than complain about his misfortune, he simply wants to find his helmet.
“It’s something every firefighter wants to hold on to,” O’Connell told The Independent. “You spend your whole life in the department, your whole career with this piece of equipment. It’s protected you in some of the hardest and scariest situations of your life.”
To help O’Connell, click here to share his Facebook post.