“My father, Jimmy Willis, met my mom in 1996. They decided to get married in 1999 when I was 16, and decided it was time for him to meet me. Due to issues with my mom’s first marriage, she hadn’t been able to take care of me, so I was in foster care.
They picked me up, and Jimmy decided to take me to a butterfly exhibit to try to make a good first impression. I was terrified of butterflies, and ran from them screaming. He thought he’d ruined all chances with me.
Fast forward to later that year, and I was hurt badly by my foster family, and he worked his butt off to get custody of me. It was a rough couple of years but we started to get close. Then 9/11 happened.
He immediately went down to ground zero after the towers fell to try to find his cousin, who was a fire fighter in the south tower. For months, he would do his day job as a subway conductor, and spend the night doing rescue and recovery work at ground zero.
He was never more proud than when I joined the Navy in 2002. We would talk often, and he went from Jimmy to Dad. He would listen to me cry, give me advice whenever I wanted it or not, LOL, and did everything he could to show how much he cared.
Eventually, his rescue work and diabetes caught up with him, and he was diagnosed with COPD, heart failure, and end stage kidney failure. After fighting for years, he lost the battle and passed away in 2014.
He was a great man, great father, and hero.”
– Angela Koenig
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