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Firefighters recall lighthearted moment with Marisa Tomei after 9/11

Photos taken Ground Zero September 2001 Chicago Firefighter Tom Maloney's camera. Maloney rushed New York wake terrorist attacks. He spent

Photos taken at Ground Zero in September 2001 on Chicago Firefighter Tom Maloney's camera. Maloney rushed to New York in the wake of the terrorist attacks. He spent 12 days searching the rubble. Every year since, Maloney has organized a memorial motorcycle ride to Manhattan. The woman pictured is Marisa Tomei.

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Updated: November 4, 2011 6:54PM

Days after the World Trade Center towers fell, a group of Chicago firefighters spending their days searching the rubble took a short break to sip a couple cold ones at a Manhattan tavern.

A beautiful Hollywood starlet, Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei, approached.

“She comes up and says, ‘Thank you for coming out here,’ ” Chicago Firefighter Tom Maloney said. “It was her hangout.”

Tomei asked the firefighters to describe the scene at Ground Zero. The guys told her to come back the next day and see for herself. Maloney’s pal went to Kinko’s and made copies of the red security badges that granted access behind the federal checkpoints.

“He ran off copies on red paper, got some scissors and laminated them. You could tell who had the real ones. The real ones were on a chain. The fakes were on a shoe string,” Maloney said. “So they told Marisa Tomei to wear some jeans, they’d get her a hard hat and they’d get her in.”

Dressed in blue jeans, Tomei, who didn’t return calls for comment, joined the Chicago guys for their morning roll call before they returned to their search in the dust and rubble.

That’s where Maloney met her.

“She comes up and says in her Brooklyn accent, ‘Whaddyalookinat?’ ” Maloney said. “I told her, ‘These guys are saying you’re Marisa Tomei.’ ”

“ ‘Well maybe I am and maybe I ain’t,’ ” was her retort, Maloney said. “She was great. … Two minutes later, Mayor [Rudy] Gulliani and his entourage come walking up. I’m standing shoulder to shoulder with another guy and she’s hiding behind us.

“She said, ‘If he sees me, he’ll shoot me. He’ll shoot all of you,’ ” Maloney said.

They all had a good laugh and posed for pictures. For Maloney, it was a welcome, lighthearted moment that didn’t last.

He tucked his camera in his jacket and went back to the pile.

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