Pat Lyons wasn't the biggest guy on the New York City Fire Department's team. He wasn't the fastest, but he would not accept defeat. His comebacks as quarterback for The Bravest were the stuff of legend.
That supreme confidence also earned him a spot on Brooklyn's squad 252 -- an elite unit trained to rescue other firefighters.
"The best way I can describe Pat would be, when you see his face coming off the rig, he had his game face on, and that toothpick in his mouth," said Artie Sartor, a fellow firefighter and one of Lyons' good friends. "That would sum it up."
He was a huge Miami Dolphins fan. Lyons was also a prudent soul and for him parenthood took years of planning.
"There was this time when we were dating that we went to, like, a local flea market, and we found these tiny Dolphins socks for a baby, and we bought them," his wife Irene said. "It was just a 'ha-ha', you know? And I tucked them away, and I knew exactly what I would do with those one day."
In the spring of 2001 Lyons was giddy when he and his wife learned they would be having a son -- a little quarterback. A few weeks before Irene's due date, Lyons got a call from the firehouse, asking if he would pull some overtime and work on Sept. 11. He agreed.
On that day, it was a mayday call that sent him scrambling into the North Tower at the World Trade Center -- men were trapped on the 50th floor. Irene was at work at a candy company on Long Island when her brother called to describe the scene in Lower Manhattan.
"All of a sudden he said, 'Oh, my goodness,' and his voice quivering, and he said, 'The tower just fell,'" she recalled. "So that's how I found out the tower fell, and I don't know if it was because I was pregnant, or in shock, but I dropped the phone and I just went hysterical crying."
Sartor was off that day, but he rushed to lower Manhattan as soon as he heard the news, and resolved to help save his friend from beneath the rubble.
"You know, we, everybody, mindset was like this, nobody showed up here in a dump truck, nobody's leaving here in a dump truck," he said.
But after months of searching, Lyons' body was never found and Irene gave birth to a baby boy on October 7, 2001, whom she named Patrick Mate Lyons. Now almost 10 years old, Patrick, say family members, bears an eerie resemblance to his father, right down to the way he throws a football.
After years of Patrick's visiting his dad's Brooklyn firehouse, his mother wondered how much he understood about the father he never met -- until little Patrick announced he wanted to write a letter to his dad and read it to the more than 2,000 who will attend the fireman's mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
On Saturday, Patrick will deliver his letter to a church full of firemen, at the St. Patrick's Cathedral 9/11 Mass for the Fallen:
I just missed meeting you. You died on September 11, 2001, and I was born 26 days later, on October 7th. I want you to know that Mommy is doing a great job of loving me and raising me in a happy home. I am almost 10 years old now, and from all the stories I've heard about you, I feel like I DO know you.
Every September 11th we go to your firehouse, Squad 252, for a Mass. We get to eat lots of donuts, and see the fire truck. I see it every year ... and every year, I think it is so cool.
On your birthday, the Lyons family gets together and we celebrate you. I send a baseball and football balloon up to Heaven to make you happy.
I think it is really cool that you were such a brave firefighter and that you died saving lots of people's lives. I feel so proud of you. As I get older, EVERYONE says I walk like you, run like you, and have your crazy sense of humor too. I play flag football in the same league as you, and in the same position as you, quarterback. In baseball, I pitch, just like you did. I really like it when people compare me to you.
Mommy told me that when you found out you were having a boy you wanted me to be a left-handed pitcher in the Majors. Well, here's the thing ... I BAT lefty, but I PITCH righty. But I DO plan to pitch for the New York Mets someday.
I have a fun life. Mommy got married again, and I have a dad, a brother and a sister. My dad plays sports with me and teaches me how to do things like ride a boogie-board, build a sandcastle, build a double-decker birdhouse, and clean the pool. I really love him.
I know that you are in Heaven and you are always watching over me. I love knowing that you are a hero.
I wish I could have met you.
Your son, Patrick Mate Lyons"
Out of the mouths of babes, we get proof that it is possible to "never forget" -- even as life goes on.