Michael D'Auria, 25, always wanted to be a firefighter, following a tradition in his mother's family. While waiting to take the Fire Department of New York examination, he attended culinary school. This somewhat unusual route to the department did not go unappreciated. Many firefighters take pride in their cooking abilities, but as one firefighter said, "when we saw Mike's name on the board we knew we were going to eat good that night."
Michael graduated from the New York Restaurant School in 1994, and worked in various Brooklyn and Manhattan restaurants. After taking the firefighter test, he went to the top of the list after scoring 100 percent on the written and physical exam. "We knew he could do it, but when he did achieve those marks, I was so excited that I cried," said Michael's mother, Nancy. Her son was following in the footsteps of nine family members.
Michael was sworn into the department on May 2nd, 2001. He was assigned to Engine Company 40 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. His relatives in the department jokingly advised him not to tell anyone he was a chef. But he enjoyed it so much that he would often stay and cook for the next shift at the firehouse.
In the months before he lost his life, Michael began painting. He completed several paintings before he died, including one that was a gift for his sister, Christina. In the painting, a brother and sister about the same age are playing in a field. Although Michael was four years younger, the two often talked about feeling like twins. "I felt his pride and his pain," said his sister.
Although conflicting schedules kept the two siblings from seeing each other frequently, they always had deep conversations. In the spring of 2001, Michael told his sister words that she vividly remembers. "When I die it's going to be in a big way," he said, "and it's going to change the world."
On September 11th, Michael had been on the job for only nine weeks. He and the other members of his company on duty that morning rushed to the World Trade Center after two planes struck the Twin Towers. The men were gathered at a command post in the South Tower's lobby when the building collapsed. They did not survive.