NY firefighters 'leave families for 9/11 widows'

Up to a dozen New York firefighters have left their wives after falling in love with the widows of comrades killed on September 11, it emerged today.

One spurned wife branded the phenomenon the fire department's "dirty little secret".

Many firefighters fell for the widows they were

assigned to look after following the twin towers tragedy.

Some 343 of the nearly 3,000 people who died in New York on September 11 were firefighters.


Mary Koenig, whose firefighter husband Gerry left her and their two children for the widow of a fallen colleague, said: "It's disgusting, heartbreaking what they've done.

"Not only have these men dishonoured their own families, they've dishonoured the memories of men who are heroes, who were their brothers.

"It's the department's dirty little secret," she told the New York Post.

Her husband, who serves with Staten Island's Rescue 5 squad, had been assigned as a 'liaison' carer to Madeline Bergin, the widow of his friend and colleague, John Bergin, who was killed in the terror attack on the World Trade Centre.

Although not officially sanctioned, the tradition of caring for the widows and families of dead colleagues has been an unwritten rule in the fire service for at least 100 years.

The newspaper reported that a fire department

official and a counsellor said there had been about a dozen similar cases since September 11.

The New York Fire Department refused to comment on specific cases.


But spokesman David Billig said "a tremendous amount" had been done to support surviving firefighters and the relatives of those killed on September 11.

"We have been very pro-active in developing solutions and encouraging our employees and their families to seek help," he said.

He said part of the counselling was "the topic of surviving firefighters not neglecting their own families".

Some 300 counsellors had worked with firefighters

and their families, he added.

New York psychiatrist Barry Richman said

firefighters acted out their "rescue" role when they saw the bereaved family of a dead colleague.

"They see these vulnerable women and see that they've lost their spouses, and they step into that role," he said.

For the widows, the firemen "become a substitute for the men they lost", Dr Richman said.

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