Today we remember Lieutenant Mike Warchola, Ladder Co. 5, FDNY.
On September 11, 2001 Mike was 51. Two shifts separated Mike from retirement and a trip to Australia when he sped to the WTC on Sept. 11 with Ladder Co. 5. The final 24-hour shift of his 24-year career would have ended less than a week later. His paperwork was done and his plans were set.
Lt. Mike Warchola and his Ladder 5 crew were assisting a civilian who was having chest pains on the stairway landing on the 12th floor of the North Tower. Immediately following the collapse of the South Tower, Fellow Fireman Chief Jay Jonas decided to evacuate and was helping a civilian back down the stairs when he saw Mike. "Mike, let's go, it's time to go!", Jay said. "It's OK, Jay, you have your civilian; we have ours. We will be right behind you."
Shortly thereafter, the North Tower collapsed.
Miraculously, 14 people survived the collapse in the B Stairwell of the North Tower. Joe Jonas was one of them. As he found himself in a pile of rubble, amongst a bed of twisted steel and debris, he heard over his radio the final mayday call for Lt. Mike Warchola. "Mayday Mayday Mayday. This is the officer of Ladder Company 5. I'm in the B stairway on the 12th floor. I'm trapped and I'm hurt bad." Jonas had no way to get to Mike. He gave out his third Mayday and that was the last they heard from Mike.
Mike Warchola is remembered for being quiet in words and strong in actions. He was a unique, extremely intelligent and very interesting man. He had an inexhaustive curiosity about the world we live in, and a unique perception about life. He was very well-read and loved to travel to the sometimes obscure places he'd read about. Mike loved his children with his very being and took an active part in their lives and future.
He made elaborate drawings of Venus Flytraps and he kept a Godzilla poster on his wall. He loved to paint.
On the Friday following September 11, Mike Warchola's body was found in a stairwell of the crumbled tower along with a young woman he was apparently trying to rescue.
Mike's friend Ellen remembers him:
I miss my friend Mike. He had a strong and independent mind, loved experiencing the physical world, understood much about evil, he was sometimes reticent, but that was OK. He was a wacky and wonderful Warchola. His love for his children Amy and Aaron was in his core. He was devoted to Ladder 5. I liked knowing he was around. He said we'd be friends for life. I am so sad he is not here.
We Will Never Forget!