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James Madison High School renaming athletic fields in honor of 9/11 hero Firefighter Danny Suhr

#BetterTogether: Class Act at James Madison High School honors Danny Suhr
#BetterTogether: Class Act at James Madison High School honors Danny Suhr 08:00

NEW YORK - Danny Suhr was a 9/11  hero and devoted husband, father, firefighter and friend to so many. It seems everyone has a story about him. 

"I'd say, of all of the honors that have been given to him over the years, this one means the most, because he loved playing at Madison. And him being in high school, he was the star athlete. He was friends with everybody. Everybody knew him. It's something special that he gets to be remembered in this way. And I know Coach Salvato really was important to him," Danny's wife Nancy Suhr said. 

"I did play with him. He was, I would say ahead of his time. So his nickname was 'Pappy,' because he was always telling me what to do. And he was always looking out for people. It's like a father figure when he was you know, 15, 16 years old. So that was a big thing for him," Coach Thomas Salvato said. "He was a good friend of mine, and he was a great player and a great leader when he was in high school." 

To understand the kind of man Suhr was, look no further than Engine 216 in Williamsburg. Everywhere you look, the 9/11 hero is looking back.  

Suhr was the first confirmed firefighter death on 9/11. His memory and his legacy live on in the firehouse, and with everyone who knew him best.

"I never really saw him angry. I just saw him, maybe after we lost to the cops or something. But besides that, he's just a guy that was always under control, and always everybody gravitated to him because you knew he'd lead you the right way, especially on the fire department or on a football field," said Steve Orr of the Touchdown Club. 

The football field at James Madison High School, where Suhr was a star, will now bear his name. 

"There was nothing better than watching Danny play football. He was really fun to watch," Nancy Suhr said. 

And there was a lot to watch. Suhr was a star captain of the football and baseball teams at James Madison High School. He also loved playing for the FDNY vs. the NYPD. He loved raising that trophy. 

The tragedy in this is Suhr missed out on raising his daughter, Brianna. She was just two years old when he passed. 

"It's getting harder. She's 24, and she misses her dad now. You know, she's at the stage in her life where she could use the input. And I'm realizing that she didn't grow up with a man in the house. So she doesn't know what that entails. You know, and it's, it's challenging now," Nancy Suhr said. "Everything's bittersweet. Everything. You know, plays, graduations. Everything's bittersweet. And in the beginning, I was so focused on just making sure she got to everything on time and, and being happy for her, that I didn't have the chance to feel bad for what he was missing. But now, when I can look back at the 22 years, my heart breaks all over again, because he missed everything. She was 2. She was 2. She was 2. You know?"

But now, every time Brianna, or anyone, enters Engine 216 in Brooklyn or looks to the scoreboard at James Madison High School, one name stands above all the rest.  

"It really evidences the community. We are renaming our fields in memory of Danny Suhr," Principal Jodi Cohen said. "First firefighter to [die on 9/11], former captain of the football team, baseball team, and just have that sense of community living on our field forever. Evidence of who we are. And it's just something for our kids to look up to and recognize that they too can make their mark in our society."

"It's an amazing thing that we've been talking about for a few years, to have Jodi Cohen be able to get this field done in such a short time," Orr said. 

The before and after images are just the way Suhr would have wanted it - better now than when he left it. For years to come, students, athletes, parents and fans will come, and they will see the name and hear the stories of a hero since day one.

"I think it's going to be exciting. I'm excited for it. I'm - it's always hard to see his name somewhere like that. But I'm excited for him. I think this is just the cherry on his life, to get this field. You know, he loved it there. I can still see in my head sitting in the stands watching him play there as a young girl with my varsity jacket -- It was so corny, we weren't in 'Grease,'" Nancy Suhr said. 

"But it felt like it did?" Wragge asked. 

"It did, it did," she replied. "I'm excited for it, I am."

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