If New York City Fire Department lieutenant Eddie D'Atri were able to talk to his family members one last time, his wife knows just what he'd say. "Being a fireman was in his blood. If Eddie had to pick the circumstances of his death, this would have been his way to go. He'd say that," said his wife, Linda. "The firefighters we knew would always say, 'If I ever went into a burning building, I'd want Eddie behind me.'"
38-year-old Eddie, a member of Squad 1 in Brooklyn, wasn't at work on the morning of September 11th, 2001, but a courageous decision led him to report to the scene of the attacks in Lower Manhattan.
His wife said he left their Bay Terrace, Staten Island, home at around 9 a.m. after he heard on the radio that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. A witness saw him running up a stairwell in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, frantically asking where the other firefighters in his squad were located.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Eddie was brought to New York City as a boy. He began his firefighting career in 1984 at the age of 21, and worked in various units throughout Brooklyn. After his promotion to lieutenant in 1994, he served in Rescue Co. 2 and Rescue Co. 4 before being assigned to Squad 1.
In his free time, Eddie enjoyed working out and in 1987 his efforts paid off when he was bestowed the body building title of Mr. Staten Island. He also took karate classes and loved to read, particularly books on philosophy, quotes and sayings. "He was looking for something within himself — searching in those books for something to make him more at peace," said Linda.
More than anything else, Eddie loved to spend time with his two boys, Anthony and Michael. He managed his sons' Great Kills Little League team and took them on many father-son trips to New Jersey, the movies, and bowling. But his boys loved, most of all, when he'd take them to the firehouse and let them sit in the fire truck. "He even let them ride in the truck on real fire calls — when they weren't too dangerous," his wife noted. "He was a great father. The boys were his life."