By FDNY Deputy Chief (ret.) Jim Riches
Firefighter Jimmy Riches, of Engine 4, FDNY, was one of the first units to arrive at the North Tower of the WTC on 9/11/01. Jimmy, 29, was one of 343 firefighters who perished on the most tragic day in the history of the FDNY.
Jimmy grew up as the oldest of my four boys in Brooklyn, N.Y. He graduated from St. Frances Cabrini elementary school and Xavier High School in Manhattan, where he starred in baseball and basketball.
He went to Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina on a basketball scholarship, where he was inducted into their Hall of fame, as a 3-point sharp shooter and scorer.
Jimmy was the hero to his brothers before 9/11, and in a fitting tribute his three brothers became NYC firefighters after 9/11. He lived life to the fullest and always said, "It's not the years in your life, but the LIFE in your years."
Jimmy had been a NYC police officer for eight years prior to his two years of service in the FDNY. He was also was a local bartender at a popular pub and had more friends than you could imagine.
How we remember
Every year since 9/11, his friends help run golf outings, annual mass bar crawls, basketball tournaments, five-mile runs and have established scholarships for first responders' children at Xavier High School and Belmont Abbey College. His memory lives on through his generous and kind deeds during his young life.
On March 25, 2002, myself and my other three sons, Timmy, Danny and Tom, carried Jimmy's body, draped in an American flag, out of the pit at ground zero.
On April 12, 2002, Firefighter Jimmy Riches was given an American hero's burial at the overflowing St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Police officers and firefighters lined up inside and outside the cathedral for a mile, a true testament to his friendships and bonds.
On Sept. 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the attacks, the Riches family will go to the World Trade Center, as we have done every year since that awful day, to place flowers and remember a wonderful young man who is missed terribly by family and friends.
We will then return to his favorite Brooklyn restaurant, Chadwick's, and with family and friends laugh, cry and reminisce about all the stories, videos, pictures and that smiling face that we miss so much.