George Cain – FDNY Firefighter, Civil War Buff, and Hero

George Cain visiting Little Round Top at Gettysburg. Courtesy of FindaGrave.

On that horrific September day in 2001, we lost nearly three thousand in New York City, Arlington, and Shanksville – businessmen and women, security guards, tourists, first responders, and countless others. Of these, 343 were firefighters of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). Instead of fleeing to safety, these heroes went into the World Trade Center buildings to selflessly save others. Many of them knew they would not make it out alive.

For the twentieth anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001, I want to focus on one of those heroic firefighters – George Cain of Ladder 7.

George was born in Massapequa, New York. He had a love for the outdoors, skiing, running, soccer, hockey, serving others, and even studying the American Civil War. George even found a rifle-musket on the side of a New York City street and had a collection of Civil War books.

George climbing into Ladder 7’s truck. Courtesy of the 9/11 Living Memorial.

George joined Battalion 8, Ladder 7 out of Manhattan after spending a few years in Telluride, Colorado. He fostered his love of skiing and carpentry there, but knew his calling was with the FDNY to serve others and to follow in his father’s footsteps. His father had served in the FDNY for over 30 years. It was even said that “life blew hot and cold for George C. Cain, in that he made his living fighting fires, but spent much of his time on cold snowy mountains, skiing.”

On the morning of September 11, 2001, George was on a run with his fellow firemen, just before his shift was over when Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower. He and his team went straight to the World Trade Center complex and entered the Marriot Hotel to help in the evacuation. When the South Tower collapsed, he and many of his fellow firemen were killed inside the Marriot. Like so many others that day, George died saving others.

George’s remains were not found until early that next year. Still, to this day, 40% of those who perished that day have not been found. His mother Rosemary has been a fierce advocate for remembering what happened that day – and to make sure the thousands killed that day receive a proper burial.

George’s story has always resonated with me. His selflessness and a love for the Civil War is one of many reasons why I wanted to share his story with Emerging Civil War. We must never forget.

17 Responses to George Cain – FDNY Firefighter, Civil War Buff, and Hero

  1. A powerful reminder of those who did not hesitate to rush to help others. Stunning that “40% of those who perished that day have not been found.”

  2. Wow, Kristen, thanks for sharing George’s amazing story. During the ceremony today, I saw a hand made sign that said George Cain and now to read his story and see his pictures. His story resonates with me, too!

    1. Larry, thank you very much for reading and sharing your story. I saw the sign too, just after his name appeared on the roll of the fallen. It may have been his mother, Rosemary, with it. She has carried a special sign with his image on it at many 9/11 memorial services. She is an incredible woman and passionate about honor the memory of those killed on 9/11.

  3. Thank you for your story. George was a friend of mine and a wonderful human being! We had planned to run the NYC Marathon together that year, instead, I ran it to honor him and the great sacrifice he made that day!

    1. Gia, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for sharing your story about George. It is so neat that you ran the NYC marathon in his honor, especially after you and him were planning to run it together. I must say it is very humbling to have one of his dear friends read this. Thank you, Gia. I hope this simple tribute can capture even just a glimpse of how incredible of a man, firefighter, and hero he truly was. Never forget.

  4. Did he like to travel by motorcycle? I met a FDNY member a few years earlier at Antietam, and we ended up touring the park together. He was on a two-week tour of battlefields at the time, and I found him to be a really good guy. I have long forgotten his name, but I’ve wondered about him frequently over the last two decades.

    1. Hi Ken, thank you for reading and commenting. I am not sure if George traveled by motorcycle, but I know he visited many Civil War battlefields. It makes you wonder if it was him. What a special memory to hold on to, though. Thanks for sharing your story, Ken.

  5. I served as a Chaplain at the Bellevue Morgue September 15 – September 28 on my first shift as Chaplain. I met Mrs. Cain and visited with her many times as she would come to the entrance to see if her son had been found. I met George’s sister. Mrs. Cain was a powerful lady. I remember they had a memorial in November, 2021 and Mrs. Cain invited me to come. I was prepared to do so but my father-in-law died in Fort Worth that same week of George’s service. I called her and told her I would be there in Spirit. She sent me a program and a prayer card with George’s picture on it. I have been honored to mention his name every time someone asks me about my time in NYC.

    Eternal Blessings

  6. Thank you for writing about and honoring my baby brother…he was an amazing person, brother, son, uncle and friend to those he met…He was indeed supposed to run the NYC Marathon that November but he did not ride a motorcycle. He is missed every single day …Never Forget ..thank you Kristen

  7. I visited the 9/11 Memorial today from Melbourne Australia and saw Georgie’s photo next to his name. I felt complete to research and see who he was. He sounds like an amazing, strong, incredible man. I am so sorry for your loss.

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