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Oklahoma City RedHawks hitting coach remembers cousin, a New York City firefighter who responded on 9/11

Keith Bodie's cousin, Nicholas Chiofalo, a New York City firefighter, lost his life responding to the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
by Bryan Painter Published: September 11, 2011

Close family

There were 10 children on Keith's mother's side of the family — “the Italian side.” They were close, and their children were close.

Just about every Friday night, the Bodies would drive from Brooklyn out to Long Island where Nick's family and some of Keith's other aunts and uncles lived and spent the weekend.

“We didn't have technology, so we'd use our imagination and play cops-and-robbers and war,” he said of the cousins.

Or, they'd start up a game of tackle football, get out the baseball gloves and play “pickle,” or find a place to crouch down in hide-and-seek.

“We are a very loving, very tight family,” Keith said. “When I got the call from my wife about Nick, I thought the world was coming to an end.”

Solemn procession

Nick, who was a volunteer firefighter before going to work for New York City, also moonlighted as a fire chief where he lived in Selden on Long Island.

The memorial for Nick was held about a mile from the fire station in Selden.

A fire truck led a procession from the church to the firehouse for a reception. Nick's son walked immediately behind, carrying his father's helmet, with family members and family friends surrounding him. Volunteer fire departments parked engines and American flags were draped along the ladders.

Nick was gone, but the memory of a kiss remained.

In early February 2001, just before reporting to baseball's spring training, Keith traveled from his home in Arizona to the home of his mother, Katherine.

This time, instead of Keith going out to Long Island, Nick traveled to Brooklyn. They laughed and ate, then laughed and ate some more, “just exactly like when we were kids.”

As evening gave way to night, farewells were in order. But they didn't part with a handshake or a hug.

“In my family, we kiss,” said Keith, now 55, as he thought back to that moment when Nick was about to walk out the front door of the three-story home on E 70th Street.

“I kissed his cheek as we said goodbye ... just like I kissed my father's cheek the day he went off to work that last time I saw him alive.”