NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A retired New York City firefighter who worked at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks is trying to get his helmet back after it was stolen from his Long Island home.
Michael O'Connell took to Facebook on Tuesday in an effort to recover the helmet.
"This was my FDNY helmet I wore my entire career including 9/11/01," the former lieutenant wrote. "It was stolen from my home a while back. I know it's a long shot but if enough people share maybe it turns up or is sent back so I can keep it in my family! Thanks!"
Firefighter Asks For Return Of Stolen 9/11 Helmet
The post included a photo of O'Connell's son, Aidan, wearing the helmet. The plea has been shared on Facebook tens of thousands of times.
The helmet is more than a piece of equipment to O'Connell.
"Every fireman knows what the helmet means to them," he told CBS2's Jennifer McLogan. "In fires, collapses, a day like Sept. 11, it's something that you hold dear to you.
"It's something that I wanted to actually give back to my children, keep it in my family and let them know that this is what your father was about; this is what he did," he told WCBS 880's Sophia Hall.
O'Connell had sadness in his eyes as he told Hall the helmet brings back many memories of the friends he lost.
"I spent countless hours and days looking for them with that helmet on my head," said O'Connell, who served as an NYPD officer before joining the Fire Department.
Helmet That FDNY Firefighter Wore On 9/11 Stolen From His Home
The helmet was stolen in 2012 when the O'Connells' home, where they raise their three young children, was burglarized. Cash, computers and jewelry totaling about $20,000 were also taken.
Nassau County police say it happened when the home was being remodeled.
"They can come, put it on my front step, walk away. No questions asked," O'Connell told 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera. "I just want the helmet back."
Sick with an autoimmune disease, sarcoidosis, which doctors say he acquired during his weeks in the toxic dust of Ground Zero, O'Connell retired from the Fire Department in 2009.
"It was the worst thing ever," O'Connell said. "I can honestly say the Fire Department is the greatest job in the world. It's what I dreamed of having."
During the attack on the Twin Towers, the front plate of his helmet was covered with an orange patch that signified O'Connell's probationary status. It was later replaced with "142," the number of the ladder company in Ozone Park, Queens, where he was transferred and promoted.
"To have something tangible like that to pass down throughout the years within the family when we are gone I think would be quite important to us," said O'Connell's wife, Rebecca.
Click here to share his post.
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