New York City's Fire Department has possibly lost hundreds of men and women in the World Trade Center attack. In the following report, NY1's Paul Messina pays tribute to three of those still missing: three heroes NY1 introduced to viewers more than seven years ago.
NY1 viewers first met Bill Lake, Terry Hatton and Kevin Dowdell when they were named our New Yorkers of the Week in January 1994. They and other rescue workers had saved Vicky Llenos, who was trapped in an explosion in Long Island City.
"I was able to go down into one of the voids between the concrete panels, and I stuck my head in and called to her and she called back to me, 'I'm here - come and help me!' I said, 'OK Vicky, we're coming,'" Hatton said back in 1994.
For three hours Hatton and his crew worked to free her, while at the same time, comfort her.
"And I would like to say thank you for your help. I owe you my life," Llenos told the three firefighters after her rescue.
"It's a dangerous job," Lake said seven years ago. "It's a dangerous situation. We've got to be in spots sometimes where we're gonna' put our lives in jeopardy, but we have a job to do to get this woman out."
A year later Hatton, Dowdell and Lake went to Oklahoma City and helped citizens of that city recover from terrorism.
As Hatton said in 1995, "Seeing it on television doesn't impact you. Pictures don't impact you at all. You have to stand in front of the building. I mean, the size of the structure and the devastation, the amount of concrete that was blown down."
Little did they know that six years later they would see much worse. On September 11th, Hatton, Dowdell and Lake were among the first on the scene as the World Trade Center tragedy began to unfold. All three are now among the missing.
I got to know Terry Hatton because our paths had crossed many times. Now noone knows if these three and hundreds of other rescuers will be found. They are truly heroes.
"It's what you're trained to do and it's what you're paid to do, and what - as a firefighter - I've chosen to do," Dowdell once told me.
While others are running away from danger, men like these are running toward it.
Speaking of Oklahoma City, Hatton once said: "I'm happy we were able to go there and do what we could."
New Yorkers should be grateful for selfless men like Bill Lake, Terry Hatton and Kevin Dowdell, here when we need them.
- Paul Messina