The widow of FDNY battalion chief Michael Fahy, tragically killed in a house explosion in the Bronx last month, has asked that donations made to help her and her three children be sent to a 9/11 non-profit.
Fiona Fahy has insisted that the money offered to pay the mortgage on their family home in Yonkers instead be awarded to Building for America’s Bravest, an initiative of the Stephen Siller Foundation that works to build “smart homes” for severely injured US soldiers. Fiona and her husband had watched a TV documentary on the initiative just days before his death and had both pledged to support the project in the future, just before the 44-year-old’s life was suddenly cut short.
“For the Love of Their Brother,” told the story of 9/11 fire-fighting hero Stephen Siller and how his family had established the foundation in his name to help other families suffering from a similar loss.
Following Michael’s death on September 27, the foundation made contact with Fiona to offer financial help to her and her children, Michael ,11, Anna Elisabeth, 8, and Cormac, 6.
“We wanted to pay off and help with the mortgage,” said John Hodge, COO of the foundation and a cousin of Stephen Siller.
Speaking at a press conference held in her husband’s Bronx firehouse on Thursday to announce the donation, however, Fahy unexpectedly asked to “pay it forward” instead, thanking the Foundation for their offer but insisting that it be used to help others who she felt needed it more.
“At the end of the show, Mike said, ‘This should be our family service project. This is an organization we should support with the kids.’ I said yes — and I knew he was going to hold me to it,” she said.
“I know Mike and I both felt — he especially — there are veterans coming home who sacrificed just as much as my husband did, and are maybe not having 10,000 people come to their funeral.”
“I think there was a reason we watched that together a few nights before,” Fahy continued.
“When I heard from the Stephen Siller foundation, I just felt like it was a sign. This is what Mike wanted and I’m really happy to be able to do something that he already wanted to do.”
A 17-year FDNY veteran, Battalion Chief Michael J. Fahy lost his life on September 27 when he was hit by falling debris after a house exploded in the Bronx. Fahy, whose father was also a firefighter, was among the first present at a house near Tibbett Ave to investigate a possible gas leak when a marijuana growing plant was discovered in the house. Fahy had evacuated the building and was standing on the street when the house exploded killing him and injuring up to 20 others. Two men have been arrested in connection with the explosion and his death.
His wife calls his death an “unbearable tragedy” but believes the “love and support of friends and strangers alike has kept us standing this week.”
Commending her kind refusal, Chief of Dept. James Leonard praised Fahy’s generosity.
“Mike Fahy lived as a hero on this job, died as a hero on this job and will never ever be forgotten on this job. But by what you’re doing, he will be known worldwide,” he told her.
“This is not a happy occasion, but it’s a good occasion to make something good out of something terrible that happened.”
A native of Rockland, Fahy lived in Yonkers with his family. Despite studying law and passing the bar with his wife, he decided to follow in his father's footsteps and join the FDNY. He joined the fire department in 1999, being made lieutenant in 2004. He continued to rise through the ranks becoming a captain in 2007 before being named Battalion 19 Chief in 2012. He is the highest ranking city fire official to die in the line of service since 9/11. According to the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York, the last death of a firefighter on duty occurred in 2014.
Garivaldi Castillo, 32, of the Washington Heights neighborhood in Manhattan, and Julio Jose Salcedo Contrer, 34, of Cliffside Park, New Jersey have been charged in connection with the explosion.