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Injured Bravest returns to parents in Flushing

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The 31-year-old rookie, who lost his firefighting older brother, Michael, in the Sept. 11 attacks, said he never would have survived the Jan. 22 apartment blaze if it had not been for the level-headed leadership and steely resolve of Fire Lt. Curtis Meyran, who died after making the same 50-foot jump."I know I'm alive today because of Lt. Meyran, how he led us up there on that fire floor," said Cawley, who came home from St. Barnabas Hospital the same day that Meyran, 46, was laid to rest miles away in Malverne, L.I. "As the situation got worse and worse, he just remained so calm and in control ... he just showed us the way."Meyran, Cawley and four others were searching for stranded residents on the fourth floor of the 178th Street apartment building when fire broke through from the floor below. One of their fire hoses lost water and they became trapped, according to fire investigators.Firefighter John Bellew, 37, who was born in Howard Beach and lived with his wife and children in Pearl River, N.Y., died after jumping. Firefighters Joseph DiBernardo and Jeffrey Cool of Rescue 3 and Eugene Stolowski of Ladder 27 remained hospitalized Monday."My mind is on the families of those that were lost right now and I'm praying for the guys that are still laid up," said Cawley, a humble graduate of Briarwood's Archbishop Molloy High School who thanked New Yorkers for their effusive outpouring of support. "Their prayers obviously so far have worked for me ... the cards, the mail, people just stopping by."Cawley and his family said his brother, Michael, was definitely watching out for him from heaven."I pray to him all the time," Cawley said. "So we stay in touch." The Flushing street where Cawley's family lives was renamed in honor of Michael Cawley."There's no other reason (he's alive)," his sister, Kristin Cawley, said about Michael's intervention. "He had wings that day."Still nursing a couple of broken ribs, an injured wrist, a concussion and a bruised eye, Cawley was well enough to attend mass Sunday at Mary's Nativity Church in Flushing, where everyone stood to welcome him home."I'm not used to this. I'm a quiet kid," Cawley said.Cawley's recovery could take months. In the meantime, his mother and sister, who are both nurses, could have a hard time keeping up with him. Cawley said he wants to stay as active as he can.And he's anxious to get back to fighting fires."I'm going back to work," Cawley said. "I can't wait to go back to work, (but) I won't go back unless I am 100 percent."Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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