NEW YORK —James ‘Jimmy’ Boyle, a former two-time president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, died over the weekend at age 80.
And while Boyle may be partly remembered for his difficult contract negotiations with City Hall during the Dinkins administration, he was also the face of 9/11 parents who lost their sons and daughters in the rubble of the World Trade Center after the 2001 terror attacks led to the collapse of the Twin Towers.
Boyle’s son Michael, a 37-year-old firefighter with Engine Company 33 on Great Jones Street, was killed in the collapse of the North Tower at 10:28 a.m. on September 11, 2001. He had been off from work that day, but he raced into lower Manhattan when he received news of the attacks.
Boyle spent months at the site looking for his son’s remains with other firefighter dads, finally discovering his son’s turnout coat about four months later.
Murray Weiss, a former columnist with the New York Post, wrote a story in 2004 about Michael Boyle’s money clip being identified in the Ground Zero debris, thanks to DNA, with $74 in cash bound together by the clip. James Boyle retrieved the clip at Police Headquarters.
“I was stunned,” Boyle told the Post. “I had to take a deep breath.”
In 2006, James Boyle told PIX11, during a chance meeting with this reporter, about 343 trees that were planted in County Cork, Ireland in memory of the firefighters who lost their lives on that dark Tuesday in 2001.
An Irish-born nurse, Kathleen Murphy, had set aside 3 1/2 acres of her family land in Kinsale, County Cork, to honor the fallen. Murphy had worked for more than 30 years at Lenox Hill Hospital, close to two firehouses. She actually went from one firehouse to another to gather the names of the lost men.
“When I found out about the trees, I had to go,” James Boyle told me, a week before my own family was scheduled for a trip to Ireland. “She gave us that land to always remember. I’ll always think of Kathy and her love.”
PIX11 hired an Irish camera crew in 2006, a week after I met James Boyle at a Manhattan dinner, and we captured the beautiful story of The Healing Trees in Kinsale, County Cork, including the tree planted for Boyle’s son, Michael.
In the years that followed, Boyle attributed at least one miracle to his late son.
Writing for DNAInfo, Murray Weiss told the story of Boyle’s granddaughter, Amanda, who suffered a head injury in 2014 at the age of 17.
Her heart had actually stopped before the teen was brought back to life.
“It was like taking a bullet,” James Boyle told Weiss at the time.
Boyle said he prayed to his son for help healing Amanda. Michael Boyle’s picture was by his father’s nightstand.
Amanda did recover and Boyle told Weiss he used to bring his granddaughter bagels at the hospital.
And there was an eerie tie to 9/11.
“You know, grandpa, you keep calling me everyday at 10:28,” Amanda reportedly said to her grandfather.
“I never realized it,” Boyle told Weiss. “I swear Michael must have been with us, all along.”