By Tony Lopez

AUBURN (CBS13) – Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters lost people not just on 9-11, but in the years that followed.

On the anniversary of that horrific day, CBS13’s Tony Lopez talked with an Auburn woman whose first-responder son died from cancer.

“I can still see him, his whole face: ‘I’m going to be a fireman. I’m going to be a fireman.'” Lois Carr recalled her son telling her as a young boy.

And so it began for little Gary Kavakos. This bright and determined New York kid who grew up strong, joined the Army, and then went on to fulfill a lifelong dream.

“He was a fireman,” Lois said. “That’s what he did. And he loved his job.”

And his mother couldn’t be more proud of her happy, healthy firefighting son. But his nightmare began on America’s darkest day.

On the morning of 9-11, Gary wasn’t at his usual post, a firehouse across from the World Trade Center. He was driving a station truck to Brooklyn.

But after the attacks, Gary rarely left the pile as firefighters were called in to ground zero to search for victims buried in the island of debris.

With his trusty companions, Gary climbed through the chunks of metal and choked back the toxic smoke, knowing the search was anything but safe.

“He said ‘We knew it was poison. But if you think there’s someone there. That’s all we wanted to do. That’s our job,'” his mother says.

Months later, Gary started getting sick.

Diagnosed in 2004 with T-cell lymphoma, Lois’ strong, determined son would live only four more years. He died in July 2008.

“You don’t want to see them die,” she says, “don’t want to see them die. They’re supposed to bury me. Didn’t happen.”

To help her heal and remember, Lois weaves together the fabric that was her son’s life – a tribute to a hero who, just like the quilt that bears his image, gave comfort in time of need but paid the ultimate price.

For this mother from Auburn, the pain lingers but the pride is more powerful, and everlasting.


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