This week the world will remember the 13th anniversary of the events of 9/11, but for Steamboat Springs resident Kevin Nerney, 56, the attacks are “a daily memory.”
On Sept. 11, 2001, Lieutenant Nerney was settling into a new life in Steamboat Springs, having just retired two weeks earlier from the New York City Fire Department. He watched as the Twin Towers crumbled, knowing that his crew would most likely be on the ground.
He found out later that all the men from his fire station on duty that day died, including his best friend. He took the first available plane back to New York to help with the search and cleanup efforts.
“It was a horror show,” he told the Denver Catholic Register recalling the 10 days he spent at ground zero.
At one point he called his wife, Kathy, and told her, “Kath, there’s nothing down here but dust.”
In June, Nerney learned that he has a form of brain cancer, stage four glioblastoma, which is among the cancers tied to the toxic ground zero cleanup area. He immediately underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and is getting ready to start another series of chemo. His medical bills have topped $640,000. Because he worked as a volunteer at ground zero, Nerney was told he’s ineligible for financial assistance from the World Trade Center Health Program.
To help Nerney, Holy Name Church, where he and Kathy are parishioners—their two children are grown and have both served in the military—has established the Kevin Nerney Fund (see box for information).
“People are so compassionate,” Kathy Nerney said, expressing gratitude.
Although her husband’s speech is a bit slurred at times and his thought process can be fuzzy, the cancer hasn’t slowed him down. He is Grand Knight of his parish’s Knights of Columbus Council and a member of the men’s Beer and Bible group.
“I think he’s missed one Knight’s meeting, that’s it,” Kathy Nerney said. “He still goes to Beer and Bible every Tuesday and if he can’t go, they come here. Last week he made chili for them. He keeps truckin’ along.”
On Sept. 11, he’ll attend a memorial service and pray for his fallen comrades.
“For guys like us, it’s a daily memory,” he said. “It feels like yesterday, not 13 years ago.”
KEVIN NERNEY FUND
Make checks payable to: Kevin Nerney Fund
Mail to: Holy Name Catholic Church, PO Box 774198, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477