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Children honor their dad in Franklin Square, 18 years after he died on 9/11

On Tuesday, a second memorial service was held in Franklin Square to honor FDNY firefighter Michael Haub, who died while responding to the 9/11 attacks, after his family learned that the New York City Medical Examiner's Office recently identified his remains from the rubble of the South Tower. (Credit: Kendall Rodriguez)

This time, they did it for the children.

When firefighter Michael Haub perished after responding to the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, his son was just 3 years old and his daughter only 16 months.

Too young to grasp the horror unfolding on that September morning, or the meaning of their father's subsequent funeral, the two siblings, now young adults, were afforded a chance Tuesday to honor him at a second memorial service at a funeral home in his hometown of Franklin Square.

The Haub family decided to hold the service after learning that the New York City medical examiner's office had identified more of Michael Haub's remains.

"We wanted them as young adults to have the opportunity to celebrate, honor and mourn their father," said the Rev. Christopher Keenan, a FDNY chaplain who spoke during the ceremony, referring to the fallen firefighter's children, son Michael and daughter Kiersten. 

The memorial service, coming on the eve of the attack's 18th anniversary, evoked the pathos of that infamous day when nearly 3,000 people died, hundreds of firefighters among them.

Haub, 34, had been on the job two years on Sept. 11, 2001. Just as Haub was ending his shift at Ladder Co. 4 in Manhattan, the call came in. His partial remains were later found in the lobby debris of the World Trade Center's south tower.

Late Tuesday afternoon, several hundred firefighters in their dress blue uniforms lined up along Scherer Boulevard outside the Krauss Funeral Home. They draped a huge American flag between the extended ladders of two fire trucks. When a bugler stepped forward and played taps, the long, piercing notes rang out across the neighborhood. 

The scene brought back memories of that time 18 years ago, when funerals for firefighters followed fast upon one another, said Cesar Escobar, an FDNY deputy assistant chief.

"We lost a lot of members," he said. "I'm here to pay my respects."

Still, something felt different about this memorial service, many in attendance said. It was not uncommon for families to have a second service in the months following the attacks. Many held memorial services without any remains of the person lost. When remains were later identified, families and friends would hold funerals, FDNY officials said.

Now, few firefighters are receiving a second service, if only because few new identifications are occurring.

In addition, several people who attended Tuesday's service, including some firefighters, said they had been youngsters when terrorists flew commercial jets into the World Trade Center.

Peter Naumowicz, a cousin of Haub's widow, Erika, recalled that he was an 18-year-old in high school. In his first period physics class, the principal came on the loudspeaker to announce that a plane had crashed into the trade center.

By second period, teachers were turning on the class TVs. By his fourth period history class, he watched the towers come down.

Then he thought about Michael Haub, his firefighter relative who had been a kind of mentor, steering him toward firefighting.

"Michael was a great person. He always liked helping others," said Naumowicz, 36, who volunteers with the Newton Fire Department in New Jersey. 

Haub's family had honored him with a wake in 2002 when the medical examiner identified some of his remains six months after the attacks.

The news media was not allowed into Tuesday's service. None of Haub's immediate family spoke publicly afterward.

Naumowicz, for his part, said the ceremony was not as somber as its predecessor. 

"It was a little bit more of a celebration of his life," he said.

Haub's son, Michael, is a corporal in the Marines. His daughter, Kiersten, plans on becoming a physical therapist for children.

His wife, who fire officials said was among the youngest of the 9/11 firefighter widows, has remarried. 

Neighbors in this Franklin Square neighborhood stood in front of their homes watching their quiet suburban block become a spectacle filled with pomp and respect. The 9/11 funerals they see these days tend to be for firefighters sickened from their work at Ground Zero.

Secil Yalcinkaya walked her son, Dennis, up to the funeral home to watch. Dennis, 4, wanted to know what was going on.

The bad guys crashed into two buildings, his mother told him. Fire people went upstairs to help, she said, and some died.

That was sad, Dennis said.

Eugene Zayas, standing outside his home, recalled that he was only 14, standing in Brooklyn, when he saw the towers collapse. Tuesday, his 4-year-old daughter, Sofia, was running in circles playing noisily with kids on the front lawn.

"These guys risk their lives for us," Zayas said. "They run into danger to save us."

When the memorial finished, the family and fire officials exited the funeral home into a line of white FDNY vans. A fire department official carried Haub's remains in a red, white and blue urn.

Fire officials presented Haub's son with his father's fire helmet. The bagpipe players and drummers led a slow procession of FDNY vehicles down Scherer Boulevard.

As they passed, the long line of firefighters raised their white-gloved hands in a silent salute.

Slowly the sound of the bagpipes faded away into silence, replaced by the sound of children playing on their front lawns.

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