Many Citations for Heroism
Liam Callahan always made it out of dangerous situations. So it was fully expected that Mr. Callahan, a Port Authority police officer, would emerge from the trade center wreckage -- even if days later.
So his wife, Joan, waited. They were supposed to celebrate 20 years of marriage on Sept. 12. But his homecoming was going to be sweeter, a wedding anniversary combined with a hero's welcome at their home in Rockaway, N.J., where they were raising four children: Brian, 17; Bridget, 15; Ellen, 13; and James, 11. Officer Callahan, however, died in the line of duty.
Police work was the lifeblood of Officer Callahan, 44, a 22-year police veteran who got at least a half of a dozen citations for exemplary actions, including a group citation for "heroic efforts" during the first trade center bombing in 1993, the police said.
One of his first rescues as a rookie came on Sept. 9, 1982. A distraught 20-year-old man was threatening to jump from the roof of the Port Authority bus terminal. "Suddenly, he slid closer to the edge, and I grabbed him," Officer Callahan told The New York Post that day. "If I didn't get him then, he would have been gone."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 8, 2001.
Liam Callahan, 43, a hero cop who cooked
Port Authority Officer Liam Callahan made the best pancakes in the morning, took his kids to school and caught the bad guys by the end of the day.
The Rockaway Township father of four was often seen volunteering at his children's school, chaperoning school trips and even working cafeteria lunch duty.
An active member of Rockaway Borough's St. Cecilia Church, Mr. Callahan, 43, was famed for the pancakes he whipped up for parish functions.
"He could cook, sew and iron better than I could," said his wife, Joan Callahan, a registered nurse at Saint Clare's Hospital in Denville. "We used to tease him and call him Mr. Mom."
But the Port Authority rescue member, who worked evening shifts, also served tirelessly as an officer of the law. While chaperoning his son Brian's 8th-grade trip to the World Trade Center three years ago, Mr. Callahan apprehended a man who slapped one of the students in the face for bumping into him.
In 1982, Mr. Callahan saved the life of a distraught young man who tried to jump from the roof of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, grabbing hold of him before he could fall. When the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, he won a police valor award for carrying out disabled people.
Last month, his heroism continued. As a member of the Port Authority's Emergency Service Unit at the Journal Square PATH Station, Mr. Callahan was among the first rescuers to enter the towers after the planes hit.
He also is among the thousands who never returned home that day, one day before his 20th wedding anniversary.
The Queens native met his Bronx-born wife in New York on a blind date originally intended for Joan's younger sister.
"Joanie's friend at the Port Authority was going to fix me up with Liam, but I chickened out so Joanie went out with him instead and they hit it off," said his sister-in-law Helen Matthews. "It was clear they were falling in love and didn't need company but he used to let me tag along a lot with them."
Juggling the busy schedules of four children and two jobs, the couple had not planned on getting away to celebrate their anniversary this year. But Mr. Callahan had arranged for the two to get new matching Celtic wedding bands.
An Irishman who always celebrated his heritage, he was a drum sergeant for the Port Authority Police Emerald Society Pipes and Drum band. He loved St. Patrick's Day, listened to Irish storytelling tapes in his car, had Irish china dishes in his house and dreamed of a day he could take his family to see Ireland, which he visited only once, in his teens.
"I actually learned about my Irish heritage from him," said Helen Matthews. "We still have to get to Ireland for Liam."
Besides his wife, Mr. Callahan is survived by his children, Brian, 17; Bridget, 15; Ellen, 13, and James, 11; another sister, Siobhan Berga of New York; 13 nieces and nephews and other relatives.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Cecilia Church in Rockaway Borough. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to Port Authority Police World Trade Disaster Survivors' Fund, C/O Port Authority PBA Inc., 611 Palisade Ave., Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 07632.
Profile by Patricia Huang published in THE STAR-LEDGER.