Maurice Keshner showed up wearing a badge that read “City of New York Emergency Medical Service” and claimed it was the first time since 2001 he decided to speak about what he saw that day.
During a memorial service to remember the lives lost on 9/11 at Freedom Park in Naples, Keshner was asked to speak.
His story was like something you would read from a book.
Keshner claimed he was retired as an EMS chief and was called out of retirement to help out. He said he was flown in by helicopter and “landed right at the site.”
Keshner said he was the “commanding officer” of the World Trade Center site for 30 days and was sending rescuers into the wreckage.
In a story that aired Friday on WINK News, Keshner recounted his memory of finding children’s bodies.
When the stories told by Keshner appeared on WINK News and in the Naples Daily News, it caught the attention of another retired New York City first responder.
“There were just too many things that were like, this smells like a rat,” said James Rallis, a retired FDNY captain who now lives in Naples.
Rallis was part of Ladder 11 and was in the Lower East Side of Manhattan the day terrorists attacked the World Trade Center. Six members of Ladder 11 died that day. He said the pain of that day is not a distant memory for him. He teared up talking about it.
But one thing Rallis doesn’t remember is Maurice Keshner. He said he’d never heard of him.
A spokesperson for FDNY said that Keshner was not part of FDNY EMS, and the entire story was fabricated.
The fallen officer’s organization that hosted the 9/11 event and the board members of Freedom Park say they had no knowledge about Keshner.
“It’s despicable that anyone would falsely claim to be a part of that effort, but it has happened. If you do a Google or Nexis search, you’ll find other examples,” said Frank Dwyer, an FDNY deputy commissioner of public information and external affairs, by email.
WINK News learned that Keshner was part of the former City of New York Emergency Services public information team in the 1970s and 1980s. There are articles from The New York Times archives that quote him as a deputy director of emergency services.
In 1996, that agency was dissolved into the FDNY umbrella, and in 2001, the EMS workers in charge of the ground zero recovery efforts were part of FDNY.
By phone Tuesday, Keshner backtracked on some of his original claims. He told WINK News he doesn’t remember if it was a helicopter or other vehicle that transported him to the site. He also said he was not the only person in charge that day, just that he was one of the people in charge.
Keshner said he retired from New York City Emergency Services in 1984, and that Chief Andrew McCracken called him on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, to come and help.
McCracken also did not corroborate Keshner’s story.
“Maurice Keshner played no major role at ground zero,” said McCracken, a retired FDNY EMS chief of operations.
McCracken said he did not call Keshner that day and has no memory of anyone from FDNY calling Keshner, and at no time did he see Keshner at the World Trade Center site.
“Is it possible he volunteered for someone and was there? Maybe. But he was not there in any official capacity,” said McCracken, who said he knew Keshner when he was a spokesperson in the 1980s.
McCracken said he hadn’t heard from Keshner in 30 years and then received a phone call from him Tuesday evening.
Keshner said he has photographs and documents that substantiate his story, but he would need a few days to provide those to WINK News.
“If there are people that don’t recognize me, all my comment to you would be you had to be there to know the entire chaos and the thousands of people that were there during that time,” said Keshner.
But Rallis said he was deeply offended by Keshner’s story, which he called an embellishment of a tragic event.
“You ran into a street-smart kid from Brooklyn, and you ran into the wrong guy,” Rallis said. “Learn to tell a better story.”