(1941 – 2001)
Retired Captain FDNY – Engine 320
On September 11th 2001, retired FDNY Captain James Corrigan (February 21, 1941), 60 years old, of Little Neck, NY was doing what he had trained to do his whole life – saving lives. Jim was the Director of Fire and Life Services for the World Trade Center Complex. Jim, with the help of three Fire Safety Directors who were also retired Firemen, saved numerous lives including all of the children at the Day Care Center. The exits near the Day Care Center were choked with people trying to leave the building, and these brave men broke through the glass windows and carried the children through those windows to safety. All of the children miraculously survived this terrible tragedy due to the effort, skill and heroism of these men. Only one man of the group of four would survive.
Jim then returned to the Emergency Command Center in the lobby of Tower 1 to assist in the evacuation. The FDNY had given the order for firefighters to evacuate but the radios weren’t working properly and they were unable to get the word out to all units. Jim, having worked at Ladder 10 for over 9 years, knew those buildings inside out. He proceeded to a lower level with Chief Grzelak to see if they could open the old command station that was in use prior to the 1993 bombing of the Trade Center. They did this in an attempt to get the building intercoms and elevators operational in the 4 buildings that the old command center controlled. Jim was able to make a last call to his son, Brendan, to tell him we were under terrorist attack and not to go anywhere until he heard something further. The South Tower then collapsed, and all communication was lost. Jim died as he had lived – helping others. His instincts, skills and heroism saved countless lives on that infamous day.
Shortly after the first jetliner hit the World Trade Center’s north tower, James Corrigan called his home in Little Neck, Queens, to talk to his wife, Marie. “It was to say he was safe and that he had gone for coffee.” So she knew he was not in his office on the 88th floor when the plane hit, that he had gotten out. She didn’t expect him to leave the scene, but she didn’t think he was going back in either.
Corrigan, 60, a retired New York City fire captain, was director of fire and life services for the management of the World Trade Center. Marie Corrigan knew that in his civilian capacity he would be assisting the firefighting efforts. She also knew he had worked for Company 10 in downtown Manhattan for years. She never expected him to be lost.
“I figured from working there and from working at [Company] 10 for so many years, he knew the buildings inside out. I felt that if things got bad, he would somehow have someplace to go.”
Marie Corrigan was told her husband was last seen in the lobby of Tower One just before the collapse of the building. “As far as I know, he was still on the lobby level when the building collapsed.”
This tragedy followed one of Jim’s proudest moments when his son, Sean, was married on September 8th. For Sean and his wife, Colleen, the tragedy was magnified as they arrived in Aruba on their honeymoon on September 10th and woke up on the 11th watching the tragic event unfold on CNN. They were stranded for 5 days waiting the opening of the airports.
The two were planning a trip to Las Vegas for a celebration of their 30th anniversary the next weekend, a gift from their sons, J. Brendan and Sean.
Brooklyn natives, they had met when Corrigan was a city police officer in Brooklyn. She flagged down his police car. “I was a lady in distress,” she said, without elaborating. The two were later married, moved to Coram and then back into the city, spending the past 23 years in Little Neck.
Corrigan spent six years with the city police and 23 with the Fire Department, retiring in 1994 from Engine Co. 320.
Jim’s family and friends will dearly miss this kind and gentle hero. They will always remember that his sacrifice and bravery saved hundreds if not thousands of lives that tragic day.
Tom Demoretcky (Newsday), October 18, 2001