9/11 Hero Sends Back Medal

A hero firefighter has sent back the medal he earned for risking his life in the Twin Towers on 9/11, demanding that Mayor Bloomberg reopen a shuttered Brooklyn firehouse.

"I cannot accept this award at this time. I would rather have my neighborhood properly protected," wrote retired firefighter Girard Owens in a letter sent to the mayor and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.

Owens, 49, who retired after 9/11 following 24 years of service, lives in the Williamsburg neighborhood that was served by Engine Co. 212 before it was closed during the budget crunch last May.

Owens was awarded a Survivor medal, given to the 1,392 firefighters who were on the scene at the World Trade Center when the towers fell and lived to tell about it.

The medal was left at his firehouse in Manhattan last summer, but he didn't pick it up until last Friday, when he put it in an envelope with the letter to the mayor.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Owens was in the basement of the north tower when the south tower came down. As he stumbled out in the chaos, he helped lead two people out to safety.

He was injured and emotionally traumatized by the ordeal, and as he recovered, began to wonder what had happened to the people he rescued.

Using pictures from 9/11, The Post helped Owens find the people he helped to safety.

He has since retired and is working to reopen Engine Co. 212, which was dubbed "The People's Firehouse" in the 1970s, when neighborhood activists saved it from an earlier round of budget cuts.

"I would like to invite the mayor down to my neighborhood so I could personally give him a tour and explain why our fire station should be open," Owens said.

He said it will take firefighters from other units in the area three more minutes to reach fires in the neighborhood - crucial time that could put lives at risk.

Bloomberg shut down six firehouses citywide last spring, including four in Brooklyn, saying the city couldn't afford to keep them open.

Loading