Description City of New York Fire Department identification card issued to William Francis Burke, Jr. The card includes a portrait photograph of Burke as well as his signature. The listed badge number is 91. Rank/title is captain.
Historical Notes Native New Yorker William Burke lived in Manhattan. Billy was a firefighter for more than 20 years and a lifeguard for 25 summers at a Long Island beach. He mentored young firefighters as an instructor at the Fire Academy and later became a captain in FDNY Engine Company 21. On September 11, Captain Burke ordered his unit out of the North Tower while he stayed to assist others. He was 46 years old.
Curator's Comment Having reached the 27th floor of the North Tower and aware that the South Tower had collapsed, FDNY Engine Company 21 Captain William “Billy” Burke ordered the men under his command to evacuate, promising to meet them later, “at the rig.”
Burke stayed behind and assisted Empire BlueCross BlueShield computer programmers Edward Beyea and Abraham Zelmanowitz. Zelmanowitz refused to abandon Beyea, his colleague and friend, a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic. Earlier, they had urged Beyea’s aide, Irma Fuller, to evacuate, asking her to let rescue workers know they were in stairwell C on the 27th floor.
Beyea, Burke, and Zelmanowitz were able to telephone family and friends. Beyea assured his mother that he would be okay. Zelmanowitz told his family that they were with a firefighter. Burke called a friend, who begged him to be safe. He is reported to have told her, “This is my job. This is who I am.” The three men were last seen together before the North Tower collapsed. Burke would be the only member of his firehouse to perish on September 11.