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For Mike, from Mike

City man meets family of near-namesake N.Y. firefighter who died in 9/11 attacks

City man meets family of near-namesake N.Y. firefighter who died in 9/11 attacks

September 23, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

A recent trip to Brooklyn, N.Y., as a guest speaker at a 9/11 memorial breakfast marked the end of an experience Mike Keifer said changed his life and the beginning of a relationship with the family of a 9/11 victim whose name was Mike Kiefer.

On Sept. 11, Mike and his wife, Cindy Keifer, of Hagerstown, drove to Brooklyn to honor fallen firefighter Mike Kiefer, 27.

At the memorial breakfast at Ladder Co. 132, where Kiefer worked, Mike and Cindy Keifer presented a U.S. flag to Kiefer's parents, Bud and Pat Kiefer.

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"I got a very loud applause from everybody," Keifer said. He noted there wasn't a dry eye in the room.

Kiefer, a native of Hempstead, N.Y., was one of seven firefighters from Ladder Co. 132 and the nearby Engine Co. 280 who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

The flag Keifer presented was among some 3,000 displayed at this year's Fourth of July Healing Field memorial at Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg. Each flag contained the name of a person who died in the 9/11 attacks, and Keifer purchased the flag bearing Mike Kiefer's name.

Keifer, 53, learned of the man with the name similar to his last year when he saw it listed among the 9/11 victims in the book "Last Man Down: A New York City Fire Chief and the Collapse of the World Trade Center."

"It's been an amazing chain of events since I read the book. I feel like I was picked to perform a task," he said. "It's eerie and hard to explain."

Since finding Kiefer's name in the book, Keifer discovered several coincidences in his life and the life of the New York firefighter. For instance, they have family members with identical or similar names and Keifer works at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Md., where Kiefer's name is displayed on a 9/11 plaque.

Keifer said he started to cry when he saw Ladder Co. 132's duty board listing the names of firefighters scheduled to work on Sept. 11, 2001. The board is now part of a 9/11 memorial display at the fire company.

"My knees buckled and I said, 'Oh my God, they misspelled his name and spelled mine,'" he said.

Another poignant moment came when he was introduced to Kiefer's mother Pat. The two were so overwhelmed, he said, they never spoke a word.

"She hugged me like I was her deceased son coming back to life," Keifer said. "And I hugged her like she was my deceased mother."

Another coincidence: Mike Keifer's father is named Pat.

After saying goodbye in what was a teary departure, Mike Keifer said he felt like he fulfilled his mission to take the other Mike's flag home to rest in peace with his parents.

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