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Retired FDNY firefighter Michael O'Connell searching for 9/11 helmet

"This was my FDNY helmet I wore my entire career including 9/11/01. It was stolen from my home a while back. I know it's a long shot but if enough people share maybe it turns up or is sent back so I can keep it in my family! Thanks!" Photo Credit: Facebook / Michael O'Connell

The family of a retired firefighter has been inundated with attention since posting a plea on Facebook for help in recovering the helmet Michael O'Connell, 39, wore during  the 9/11 attacks.

According to O'Connell's wife, Rebecca, also 39, the helmet was stolen from their Westbury home, along with their daughter's birthday gifts and a slew of fire fighting memorabilia, in a 2012 burglary.

Since they posted a picture of their son, Aidan, now 8, wearing the helmet that protected O'Connell during his years at  FDNY, more than 100,000 people have shared the picture and millions have viewed it, said Rebecca.

Tips have also poured in, and the couple sleuthed down one about a similar helmet put up for sale on eBay, though it turned out not to have had O'Connell's badge number -- 4073. "We've turned somewhat into detectives," said Rebecca.

"We're very hopeful now, to see how this has taken off," she said, noting that the helmet "is very symbolic. It's the one tangible thing he had that he could pass down to our boys and maybe our daughter."

Her husband, she said, was forced to retire from the FDNY after contracting sarcoidosis in 2007, which the couple believed was connected to O'Connell's work during 9/11.


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