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NY firefighter killed during 9/11 attacks honored in Oak Brook

Ed Donnelly Oak Brook gives flag thcovered his brother Fire Lt. KevDonnelly Oak Brook Fire Chief Tom McEllFriday. The flag

Ed Donnelly of Oak Brook gives the flag that covered his brother, Fire Lt. Kevin Donnelly, to Oak Brook Fire Chief Tom McEllin Friday. The flag will be flown over the station Sept. 11. | Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 5, 2011 1:38PM

Ten years have passed since Oak Brook resident Ed Donnelly lost his brother Kevin in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and his family will soon head to New York to remember him.

“It’s going to be a tough weekend, but a special one,” Donnelly said during a gathering at the Oakbrook Center Mall Friday.

Oakbrook Center’s parent company, General Growth Properties, has donated $5,000 for the NYFD Ladder 3 Battalion 6 Memorial Fund. The gift is in honor of Donnelly’s late brother, Lt. Kevin Donnelly, killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings.

Kevin Donnelly, who was 43 that September morning, had just gotten off duty, but jumped on Ladder 3’s fire truck to head to the World Trade Center after it was struck by a jetliner hijacked by terrorists.

“He had just worked a 24-hour shift,” Donnelly said. “I was in Dallas and we talked at 10 p.m. the night before, when he was at the firehouse. Ladder 3 rode out with 12 men. Six were off duty and all of them were killed.”

After learning of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center north tower from his wife Sue, Donnelly knew his brother would have a busy morning. Then the second plane struck the south tower.

“I knew he was working,” Donnelly said. “I knew he would still be at the firehouse even after his shift was over. When the first tower came down, I knew it was going to be a real bad day.”

Kevin Donnelly’s body wasn’t recovered and identified until March 12, 2002. The 24-year veteran of the New York Fire Department was one of the last firefighters recovered from Ground Zero.

“Firemen said the words ‘back out’ were not in Kevin’s vocabulary,” Donnelly said. “We knew he wasn’t going to be out on the street that day. He was in the last group recovered. Typical of Kevin to be the last guy out.”

Kevin Donnelly was just a few credits shy of his masters in fire protection management. Donnelly said Ladder 3 was seen as the best of the best New York had to offer.

A bachelor, Kevin Donnelly was proud of his nephews and would often visit his brother and his four children, Craig, Brian, Eddy and Sean, in Oak Brook.

“He came out every summer for ‘boys weekend,’” Donnelly said. “It was about sports, fun and uncle talk. He was a hero long before that day and the fire stories he would tell were legendary.”

Sept. 11 was not Kevin Donnelly’s first response to the World Trade Center. He was called to the scene during the 1993 bombing there. Now Ladder 3 will have a permanent place at the site, as its fire truck was recently lowered into a museum scheduled to open next year.

“Ladder 3 is going to be the fire truck at the center of that museum,” Donnelly said. “It was crushed and represents the magnitude of the event, but it also represents the respect the fire department had for that company. It was the best of the best.”

After reading a letter from the New York Fire Department, Oak Brook Fire Chief Tom McEllin Friday was presented with the flag that was draped over Kevin Donnelly’s body as he was recovered from Ground Zero in 2002.

“They are heroes who inspired a nation when they needed it most,” McEllin said. “Ladder 3 was legendary. They were the bravest of the brave.”

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