New York Daily News
BY ALBOR RUIZ
Monday, September 9th 2002, 8:19AM
A year has gone by since the World Trade Center tragedy, but Joseph Ward, who barely survived the attack, has not yet recovered from the terror.
"I have good days and bad days," said Ward, who lives with his wife, Mary, in a two-story house decorated with dozens of pictures of his children and grandchildren in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
"I was invited to several Sept. 11 events," he added. "But I just can't go back there."
A former hockey player and ironworker, Ward still looks fragile, and the pain in his back and neck has not disappeared. Twelve months after the tragedy, his fear of subways and elevators lingers on.
"I am not 100%," he said. "I don't sleep well."
The fact that he has "some good days" is already remarkable. But it helps him that the heroism of his fellow World Trade Center fire directors is finally being recognized.
As some readers may remember, Ward, 58, was one of the three survivors of a nine-member fire safety crew on duty at the WTC the day of the attacks.
He felt the story of the role played by his fellow WTC fire directors in the evacuation of the buildings had not been sufficiently told, he said in May, when he called the Daily News.
"People should know about the six men who died at their posts that terrible day," Ward said at the time.
"The fire directors should not be forgotten."
Ward, who is still undergoing psychiatric treatment twice a week, had manned the fire station at Building 5 for nine years.
He was at his desk when the first plane hit the towers.
He did not think twice about jumping into action.
Immediately, he proceeded to help people to safety, evacuating 30 children from a nursery in Building 5.
"Saving those children was my proudest moment," Ward said with emotion.
As well it should be.
Buried twice under the crumbling Building 5 ceiling, he barely made it out with three broken ribs, a damaged back and a deep sense of horror.
His ribs have finally healed, and he can live with the back pain.
The horror, though, is a different story.
"My daughter wanted me to go with her, her husband and five of my grandchildren to Florida for a vacation," Ward said.
"She bought me a ticket and everything. But I could not do it. I just cannot get on a plane, at least not yet."
The Trade Center fire safety unit was made of 24 full- and part-time employees who worked for OCS Security under contract with the Port Authority.
They were in charge of the fire command desks in the towers and in Building 4 and Building 5, where Ward worked.
They also were responsible for keeping the equipment in working order, training fire wardens and running fire drills.
Created after the 1993 terrorist bombing as one of several new safety measures, the fire safety unit put a station in the lobby of each building.
"Wednesday [9/11] is going to be rough," Ward said.
"It is not only that we worked together, it's that we were a family. We covered for each other. I still wake up in the middle of the night thinking, 'Where are my friends?' "
At the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, Ward can rest assured that his friends are in the hearts of New Yorkers, where they belong.