Stories behind the tragedy: Queens’ fallen heroes

Rookie firefighter Chris Santora used to complain to his family that he had yet to see a “big fire” since joining the city Fire Department in February.

Chris Santora, 20

Rookie firefighter Chris Santora used to complain to his family that he had yet to see a “big fire” since joining the city Fire Department in February.

“He got to see the biggest one in the history of the whole world,” said his sister Kathleen Santora, 20, as she and her sister Jennifer joined neighbors at a rally in Astoria. They were awaiting word on her brother’s fate following the collapse of the World Trade Center’s towers.

Chris Santora, who would celebrate his 24th birthday this week, disappeared after attempting to retrieve victims of the fiery plane crashes that sent the Twin Towers crashing to the ground.

The son of retired Fire Chief Alexander Santora, Chris “wanted to be a fireman his whole life,” Kathleen Santora said. “He’s my hero.”

The younger Santora was scheduled to end his shift at Engine Co. 54 in Midtown Manhattan at 9 a.m. Tuesday when the company responded to the call that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:48 a.m.

After the towers toppled, Alexander Santora walked through the rubble and found the rig of his son’s engine company a few blocks behind the building missing all of its rescue equipment — a sign that all the firefighters on the truck went into the building to save lives.

His sisters said every member of the company who responded to the fire call is now missing.

“At least they’re all together in this,” Kathleen Santora said.

For their father, who ended his 40-year FDNY career only last year, the possibility of having lost his son is “devastating,” his daughters said.

“He was virtually invincible and now his only son is MIA on his first major assignment,” Kathleen Santora said.

Firefighters missing from Haz Mat 1 and Squad 288, as reproduced from a list posted outside the Maspeth firehouse shared by the companies: Rod Kerwin, Adam Rand, Tim Welty, John Ielpi, Ron Gies, P. Brennan, Joe Hunter, Brian Sweeney, Kevin Smith, Dennis Carey, Marty Demeo, John Giordano, J. Fanning, Tom Moody, Pat Waters, John Crisci, Dennis Scauso, Tom Gardner and John Hohmann.

Frank Munoz, 29

Cathy Munoz is waiting for her husband to come home.

Sadly, in the wake of the World Trade Center attack, she is not the only one.

“Everything he does is good,” said Cathy Munoz, 31, who has lived in Flushing all her life. Her husband, Frank Munoz, 29, was working in technical support for Marsh USA on the 97th Floor of Tower One when the World Trade Center was decimated by terrorists.

“He’s funny,” said Cathy Munoz. “He likes to play jokes with people, embraces life, enjoys everything that he does.”

The couple met seven years ago while working at United Lawyers.

“The first time we went anywhere together, he took me to Wendy’s,” said Cathy Munoz. “Neither of us had much money at the time. He was willing to take me to the most expensive place he could afford. I thought it was very sweet.”

The pair dated for four years before getting engaged. They married two years ago.

“It’s been a wonderful, fabulous seven years,” she said. “We do everything together. We would never go anywhere without the other.”

Frank Munoz, an only child, was raised in Corona by his mother after his father died when he was only a year old. His mother is anxiously waiting for Frank to return.

“If we had an argument, five minutes later it was over,” said his wife, “because we didn’t like to be angry at each other.”

Cathy Munoz recently started working as a parent developer at PS 14 in Corona.

Clifton Davis, 38

The Davis family of Bland Houses in Flushing gathered together Monday night in a vigil for the safe return of their friend and brother, Clinton Davis.

“He’s the backbone of the family,” said his sister, Sandra Davis.

Clinton Davis, 38, was working as a Port Authority officer in the World Trade Center Sept. 11. He is one of thousands of men and women who are still missing in the collapse of the Twin Towers.

“He’s a lovable guy,” said his brother, Blonza Davis. “He enjoys a whole lot of things in life.”

“He’s the life of the party, always joking,” said his sister, Carolyn Davis Winston.

After leaving the Air Force, Clinton Davis moved on to work for the Port Authority for 16 years. He was looking forward to his retirement, said his relatives.

“We never would have thought he would be a police officer,” said Sandra. “He was so clumsy.”

Clinton Davis’ wife, Daphne Davis, lives in Texas and he has three children: Clinton Jr., 18; Priscilla, 12; and Julian Miles, 9.

The Davis family said Clinton is an inspiration to their own children.

“The night before it happened, I told him my son was in trouble,” said his sister, Emily Davis. “He told me, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.’”

The Davis family was consoled at a 7 p.m. vigil organized by the Bland Residential Association. The vigil also paid tribute to the other member of the housing development victimized by the attack, Terry Thomas, who is recovering in the hospital.

Frank Lin, 31

When a hijacked jetliner hit Tower One of the World Trade Center Sept. 11, Allan Jennings made a frantic call to his friend and city council campaign treasurer, Frank Lin, 31, who was working on the 89th floor.

“I was able to get through immediately,” Jennings recalled. “Frank told me he was okay, he had come out of the elevator just as the first plane had hit.”

Lin, the father of 1-1/2-year-old twins, had an apartment in Flushing and a home in New Jersey. He was working for Jennings’ campaign for City Council in the 28th Council District, the seat currently held by Thomas White (D-Jamaica).

Lin told Jennings he was lucky not to have been in the elevator at when the first plane hit Tower One at 8:48 a.m. When Jennings hung up the phone, he said he began to pray. He called back 15 minutes later.

“Frank, are you still in your office?” he asked. “My heart sank when he told me he was still on the 89th floor. Security had called him and told him to stay in his office, not to leave.”

Lin was under the impression that a small plane had hit the building and was shocked when Jennings told him it was a 757 jetliner.

“I urged him to leave repeatedly and he stubbornly refused, repeating the security guard’s words,” Jennings said.

The council candidate called back 10 minutes later at about 9:55 a.m. after the second tower was struck by a second plane and nearly consumed by flames.

“I urged him to leave,” Jennings said, but Lin refused.

“‘They don’t want a lot of people rushing down the stairs. Security promised to send someone up to get us,” he told Jennings.

Lin had placed a towel under his office door to keep the smoke out. Jennings suggested he wet the towel to make it a more effective shield.

Jennings tried to call back a few minutes later, but the tower began to fall as he dialed the number. Lin has not been heard from since.

“I am so deeply pained,” Jennings said. “I haven’t stopped praying and hoping. He has a wife and two beautiful 1-1/2-year-old twins also praying for his return.”

Lin graduated from law school three years ago and worked as an accountant. He is the prime breadwinner for his wife, children, father, mother-in-law and father-in-law.

“We all want to remain hopeful that Frank Lin will be found,” Jennings said. “His wife and family are all victims of this unimaginable attack of terrorism.”

Michael Mullan, 34

Michael Mullan is a firefighter who loved to laugh, his mother Theresa said this week as she talked about her son, now missing in the World Trade Center attack.

“He was full of merriment and mischief and devilment,” said Bayside resident Theresa Mullan.

Mullan was working with Ladder Company 17 in Chelsea last week when he got the call to go down to the Twin Towers. He called his Jordan Street home from the fire truck, Theresa Mullan said.

“He talked to my husband and said, ‘Dad, we’re under attack,’” she said. “He said, ‘I love you very much, tell everyone I love them.’”

Her son, a registered nurse who also served in the U.S. Army Reserves, was with two other firefighters as the World Trade Center towers began to collapse, Theresa Mullan said. Michael Mullan went back in to search for more victims, she said.

Now waiting for news of her son, Theresa Mullan said she has been comforted by the condolences of friends and neighbors.

“Everyone who comes into this house has a Michael story,” she said. “Michael lived every day of his life.”

Arthur Scullin, 57

Arthur Scullin, an Auburndale resident and father of three, is a Vietnam veteran who took an active role in his community, his son James said.

Born in Woodside, Arthur Scullin got involved in Auburndale by becoming a track coach in the Catholic Youth Organization and a trustee of the nearby St. Kevin’s elementary school.

Scullin was working on the 98th floor of One World Trade Center as director of taxes for Marsh & McLennan, when the first plane struck the Twin Towers Sept. 11, his son James said.

“He was with the company since 1988,” James Scullin said.

Scullin made sure to always catch the 7:17 a.m. train out of the Long Island Rail Road station in Auburndale, his family said.

His family has not seen or heard from him since the day of the World Trade Center attack, James Scullin said.

Arthur Scullin has three children: Warren, James and Nora. Anyone with information is asked to call: 212-345-6000, or 1-800-698-4567.

George Merino, 39

George Merino of Bayside called home for the last time between 9 a.m. and 9:02 a.m. Sept. 11 after the north tower at the World Trade Center was hit, his wife Olga said.

“What I remember him saying was ‘next door, fire, chopper, smoke, people jumping out of windows,’” she said of her last conversation with her husband. “He asked me to call his parents.”

Merino had been working as a securities analyst for Fiduciary Trust International for six months, Olga Merino said, with an office on the 90th floor of Two World Trade Center. She has not heard from her husband of 15 years since that last frantic call during the attack on the Twin Towers.

The family moved from Flushing to Bayside two years ago, she said.

Friends of the couple’s only daughter, Tania, organized a car wash this week to raise money for the relief efforts.

“He was father of the year if you ask me,” Olga Merino said. “He was very close to his family.”

If you have information about George Merino, call 718-819-0191.

Michael Howell, 59

Emily Howell has been searching for her husband Michael since the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers.

The Baysider was working as the director of information technology at Alger Management Inc. on the 93rd floor of One World Trade Center when the assault occurred last week.

Emily and her son Kevin have been searching Manhattan for any signs of Michael Howell, traveling from hospital to hospital and haunting the family center established by the city for the families of victims.

“He was a great guy,” Emily Howell said of her husband. “There wasn’t a bad bone in his body.”

If you have any information on Michael Howell, call 718-468-1919, 609-799, 7465, or 516-950-1485. The family can also be e-mailed at www.geocities.com/raven_801.