Everything about New York City Firefighter Michael Kiefer was American. Blessed with good looks, an athletic physique and a charismatic charm, he grew up on a suburban street in Franklin Square, raised by loving parents Bud and Pat Kiefer. He played the part of big brother and role model to sisters Lauren and Kerri.
From a very early age, Kiefer had a dream of being a firefighter and worked hard toward that goal, leading him to become a member of the New York City Fire Department. He found love and planned to marry his girlfriend, Jamie Huggler.
Kiefer indeed represented all the strong values America was built on - a devotion to family, courage and a willingness to work to make a dream come true.
But Kiefer, like so many others, was taken from the world too soon on September 11, 2001. Six years later, he is remembered at memorial services such as the one at Eisenhower Park on Sunday, Sept. 9, when a memorial bearing the name of 344 victims of 9/11 who were Nassau County residents, was unveiled.
As Pat and Bud Kiefer stood at the podium in the Harry Chapin Lakeside Theatre in Eisenhower Park on Sunday, reading the names of some of the Nassau County residents who perished on 9/11, Bud was sure his son could hear his words: "You were and still are my best friend."
Those who died that day are still alive in the memories of those who loved them. But six years later, for those who lost a family member - a son, daughter, sister, brother, father, mother, husband, wife, fiancé - the pain of their loss will never go away.
"It gets worse," said Bud Kiefer. "Whether it's six years, six months, six days, six hours, six seconds - it's just too long."
Michael Kiefer wanted to be a firefighter since he was 3 years old and anyone who has a passion for being a firefighter knows of the phrase, "I just want to catch the big one." Kiefer, like his brother firefighters that day, died fighting the biggest one of all.
"Do I take any comfort in that? He's not here," said Bud Kiefer. "I try to contain my anger. I get very angry at the people who did it. I get angry at our government for allowing it to happen. What has changed? What is different?"
Irene Boehm of West Hempstead was also among those who read the names of the victims of the World Trade Center attacks at Eisenhower Park on Sunday, including her husband Bruce, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor of the North Tower. Bruce Boehm, known affectionately as "Chappy," had a zest for life; he loved his family, the beach, where he worked for part of his life as a lifeguard, and running marathons.
On Tuesday, Sept. 11, Irene Boehm spent the morning at the Town of Hempstead 9/11 ceremony at Point Lookout. Irene took a flower and cast it into the ocean, saying simply, "Happy Anniversary, Chap."
September 11, 2007 would have been Irene and Bruce Boehm's silver wedding anniversary. Instead, he was taken from the world and those who loved him on his 19th wedding anniversary. "There are nights I still wake up and I'm picturing him there," she said.
For Irene Boehm, life has gone on and she takes comfort in thinking of how her two daughters, Brittany, who was 16 in 2001, and Stacey, 13 in 2001, have grown and succeeded despite all the sadness they have experienced in the past six years.
Irene works in a school and has close friends, including the wives of husbands who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, with whom she can share happy moments with. Brittany and Stacey both graduated in the top of their classes from H. Frank Carey High School. Brittany graduated from Penn State University and now attends New York University and Stacey attends Boston College. Both are pursuing careers in nursing. Irene says her daughters live their lives the way their father would have wanted them to. "They are so much like my husband it's frightening," she said. "He just never stopped. He always forged ahead."
Brittany and Stacey are so much like their father they even both became Jones Beach lifeguards. "He would have been so proud of them," Irene said. "I know they have their father on their mind everyday. I know that's what keeps them doing well. They're just so well-adjusted."
Despite Irene and her daughters' ability to forge ahead, Irene must still live without her husband and Brittany and Stacey must still live without a father who would have attended their high school and college graduations. "The pain is there every single day," said Irene. "Time does not heal. You learn to kind of put your grief in your back pocket and carry it along with you. My husband is on my mind 24 hours a day. I don't think that will ever go away and that's good. I have memories of him. They're not sad memories. We talk about him all the time. We laugh about the quirky things he would do. He would be happy that we're happy I had 19 wonderful years. As sad as it is, at least I have that. Those memories will never go away."
Each September 11, memorials around Nassau County and at Ground Zero remember those who perished six years ago. At Eisenhower Park, a new monument, a $2 million venture, set next to a tranquil lake, remembers all those residents of Nassau County who died by listing all 344 names.
At Sunday's ceremony, family members read the names of those who passed away. They were:
Margie Miller - Widow of Joel Miller (Baldwin)
Susanne Ferris - Widow of Robert Ferris (Garden City)
Melissa Gangi - Daughter of Michael J. Pascuma Jr. (Massapequa Park)
Jeanne Evans - Sister of Robert Evans (Franklin Square)
Debby Garcia - Widow of David Garcia (Freeport)
Barbara Hoerner - Widow of Ronald Hoerner (Massapequa Park)
Lisa Burch - Sister of Andrew Stern (Bellmore)
Sean Hunter - Brother of Joseph Hunter (South Hempstead)
James Wilkinson - Brother of Glenn Wilkinson (Levittown)
Bud and Pat Kiefer - Parents of Michael Kiefer (Franklin Square)
Arthur Filete - Father-in-law of Michael Patrick O'Brien (Massapequa)
Sherry Iskenderian - Widow of Aram Iskenderian - (Merrick)
Rosemary Cain - Mother of George Cain (Massapequa)
Nicole Reda - Widow of Gregory Reda (New Hyde Park)
Jane Pollicino - Widow of Steven Pollicino (Plainview)
Gloria Talty - Mother of Paul Talty (Wantagh)
Marc Wieman - Widower of Mary Wieman (Rockville Centre)
Michele Mosca - Sister of John Sherry (Rockville Centre)
Ed Thompson - Father of Glenn Thompson (Valley Stream)
Irene Boehm - Widow of Bruce Boehm (West Hempstead)
Deanine Nagengast - Daughter of William Steckman (West Hempstead)
Roxanne Green - Widow of Wade B. Green (Westbury)
"The sentiment behind the memorial was always about respecting the memories of our lost loved ones," said vice president of the Nassau County 9/11 Memorial Foundation Janet Wexler Magee, whose husband Charles Wilson Magee started working at the World Trade Center only six weeks before the attack.
The 9/11 memorial in Eisenhower Park is open to all people to visit. It is located near the Harry Chapin Lakeside Theatre.
Since September 11, 2001, the memories of those who died are kept alive in memorials and through foundations, funds and scholarships. Here are links to some of them:
Damian Meehan Memorial Fund at www.damianmeehan.org
Danielle Kousoulis Memorial Scholarship Fund at www.kousoulisfund.org
FF Michael P. Ragusa Scholarship Fund - visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/fdny/html/units/fau/events.shtml for golf outing and other events
Paul Jurgens Foundation at www.pauljurgensfoundation.org
Peter C. Alderman Foundation at www.petercaldermanfoundation.org
Madeline Amy Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery at www.mass.gov/?pageID=eopsutilities&L=1&sid=Eeops&U=sweeney_award_form
FF Michael Kiefer Fund at www.nyffburncenter.com/incs/kieferfund.htm
Michael J. Berkeley Foundation at www.mikebfoundation.org/tournament.html
The Oli Bennett Charitable Trust at www.olibennett.org.uk
The Pat Lyons Foundation at www.patlyonsfoundation.org