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In Remembrance
Place of Residence:
North Bellmore, NY
Location on 9/11:
Fire Department of New York | Firefighter, Ladder 136
The New York Times Portraits of Grief
FF Michael J. Cawley Foundation

Michael Joseph Cawley was born on April 6th, 1969 in Jackson Heights, Queens, to parents John and Margaret Cawley. When he was three years old, Michael’s family moved to Flushing, Queens and that is where he lived for 23 years with his parents, younger sister Kristin and younger brother Brendan. From the fall of 1975 until the spring of 1983, Michael attended elementary school one block from his Flushing home at St. Mary’s Nativity School. During Michael’s youth he served as an altar boy at St. Mary’s and was involved in a number of community sports programs including soccer, baseball and basketball.

In the fall of 1983, influenced by his cousins Brian Mulqueen (Class of ‘81) and Thomas Cawley (Class of ’86), Michael followed a family tradition of studying at Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood, Queens. From day one, Michael worked to capitalize on all the opportunities that Molloy had to offer. Michael was a member of the Student Activity Committee, the Religious Activities Office and the Irish Club during all of his four years at Molloy. He was a member of the track team during his freshman and sophomore years, winning numerous medals and helping his team win the city championships both of those years. He also participated in the intramural sports program that Molloy offered. While working with Brother Leo, Michael was a peer counselor to younger students in the SMILE Program. During Michael’s four years at Molloy he was very active in the many retreat programs offered through the school at the Esopus retreat grounds in upstate New York. Michael was a counselor on weekend retreats for younger students and during the summer he worked with specially disabled children and adults. Admirably, Michael was invited to make his Senior Encounter during his junior year. During his senior year, he became a program leader.

In the spring of 1987, Michael graduated from Archbishop Molloy and was awarded the Marcellin Champagnat Award for his service. During Michael’s four years at Molloy he was able to learn and mature more than he could ever have expected. However, the most significant thing he was able to take with him from his experience at Molloy was the greatest collection of friendships he could have ever wished for. Michael studied and earned a degree in Political Science at the State University of New York at Oswego from 1987 to 1991. While attending college in Oswego, Michael continued his path of active involvement by joining numerous student and community organizations. Michael’s desire to become a part of the F.D.N.Y. began when he was just a young boy. Michael’s farther was an officer in the Knights of Columbus Hudson Council in Woodside, Queens, located just blocks from the firehouses of Ladder Company 163, Engine Company 292 and Rescue Company 4. Michael’s father would often bring him to visit these firehouses. The firefighters always enjoyed these visits from Michael and Michael always enjoyed leaning about firefighting and playing on the trucks. The memory of those firehouse visits stayed with him throughout his formative years and on July 1st 1995, Michael brought his lifelong dream to reality when he entered into New York City Fire Department Fire Academy.

In October of 1995, building on the values he had learned in his family home and at Archbishop Molloy High School, Michael Cawley joined the ranks of New York’s Bravest when he became a New York City Firefighter. After his graduation from the fire academy, Michael was assigned to Ladder Company 136 in Elmhurst, Queens. From day one Michael made it his objective to get to know and learn from as many of his fellow firefighters and officers as possible, much the way he had gone about befriending any and everyone he could during his time at Archbishop Molloy and at SUNY Oswego. During his second and third years with the department, Michael rotated to Engine Company 35 in Harlem and Engine Company 286 in Glendale before returning to Ladder 136. One of Michael’s proudest days as a firefighter was on April 4th, 2001. He and his company responded to an accident where a man working for the electric company was electrocuted by the power lines he was repairing. Using his quick instincts and life-saving training, Michael put his life on the line to save another. He was hoisted up to where the man dangled unconscious from the power lines. Once in place, he was able to cut the man free and carry him down to safety. The man lived due to Michael’s heroics.

After Michael’s passing, his family was presented with the medal he had been nominated for as a commendation for his valor in saving the electrocuted worker’s life that previous April. On September 11th, 2001, Michael’s life, like that of so many of his brother firefighters, was tragically cut short when he responded with Rescue Company 4 to the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. The previous night, Michael had been covering a shift for a fellow firefighter at Engine Company 292. He had been relieved of duty early on the morning of the 11th. When the report of the disaster at the World Trade Center came in, Michael jumped aboard the truck and rode into Manhattan with Rescue 4, determined to help save lives. Ironically, Michael spent his last day as a firefighter working with the same fire trucks he used to play on as a boy. Michael Joseph Cawley lived and died with a passion to help people. He lived each day learning and growing and would bring his growth and new knowledge with him into each succeeding day. A friend once summed up Michael by saying, "to him, it wasn’t the years in his life but the life in his years".