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Missing Little Neck man saved Trade Center kids

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Little Neck resident and retired Fire Department Capt. James Corrigan had gone outside for a cup of coffee the morning of Sept. 11, so he was not at his desk on the 88th floor of Tower One when the first plane hit the World Trade Center, his wife said Tuesday.

Corrigan, a 30-year veteran of the city Fire and Police departments, phoned his wife Marie to let her know he was all right, she said. Then Corrigan went to work.

As the director of Fire and Life Services for new World Trade Center owner Larry Silverstein, Corrigan and three other fire safety directors — all four of them retired firefighters — headed for the Twin Towers day-care center on the first level above the lobby as thousands of adults fled.

Because the building exits near the day-care center were clogged with people, Corrigan and his colleagues shattered windows to get the children to safety, his family said. Corrigan, 60, a father of two adult sons, went back to the lobby of Tower 1 to assist in the evacuation, his wife said, and has not been heard from since.

Marie Corrigan and her sons Sean and Brendan spent Saturday morning at St. Anastasia’s Church in Douglaston, where hundreds attended a memorial mass in honor of James Corrigan.

During the mass Brendan Corrigan remembered his father as proud gardener who earned the name “Jimmy the Rose” around his Little Neck neighborhood.

Other memories also surfaced as Brendan Corrigan fondly remembered his father’s penchant for baseball, green M&Ms and the time he was a security officer at the first Woodstock concert in upstate New York in 1969.

By Tuesday morning a drained Marie Corrigan was struggling to express her thoughts about her husband.

“He was an incredible man,” she said. “He was so devoted to his job, to his children, to me. He had a tremendous heart.”

Corrigan served for about six years as a city police officer before transferring to the Fire Department in 1969, his wife said. He retired in 1993 with the rank of captain, Marie Corrigan said, and eventually went to work for Larry Silverstein.

The Corrigans, who were married for 30 years, had lived in Little Neck for the last 23, Marie Corrigan said.

The week before Sept. 11 had been a happy one, she said, with their son Sean’s wedding. On Sept. 14, James and Marie had planned to celebrate their anniversary with a Las Vegas vacation arranged by their sons.

“We just thank God for every day we had with him,” she said.

Marie Corrigan said her son Brendan received a touching e-mail about their father after the Sept. 11 attack.

“I thought I knew your father,” a friend wrote. “I had only scratched the surface.

“I never really understood what the term ‘hero’ meant,” the friend said. “I now have a face and a name and a real person to call a hero — your father.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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