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Edward Keane loved New York, and he loved his work.
That's why he eagerly returned to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in May after retiring from the bistate agency in 1998. An engineer, he first worked for PATH. His second tour found him overseeing projects at the George Washington and Goethals bridges.
"My husband grew up in Jersey City, looking across the river into New York and its crumbling piers," said Barbara Keane, Mr. Keane's wife of 38 years. "When he became an adult, he saw the renaissance of Lower Manhattan and that had an appeal to him. He loved the buzz of Lower Manhattan."
When he wasn't in the field, Mr. Keane, 66, of West Caldwell, worked out of an office in One World Trade Center. He was on the 64th floor when a hijacked jetliner hit the building Sept. 11.
Initially thinking they were dealing with just a structural fire, Mr. Keane and 15 of his colleagues sealed themselves in a conference room in the crippled tower, doing what they could to keep out any smoke and awaiting help. They soon found out from TV they were confronting an emergency far more severe.
At that point, they attempted to escape on foot, making it to the 20th floor before the building collapsed. Of the 16, only two survived. "Valuable time was lost" in the conference room," Barbara Keane said.
Before the tower gave way, Mr. Keane was able to make several calls out, two of them home, saying he was safe and not to worry. But the second call ended abruptly with him saying he'd begun smelling gasoline fumes, his wife recalled.
The area around the World Trade Center meant so much to Mr. Keane that he was thrilled when friends or relatives would ask him for a tour.
"Life in suburban New Jersey . . . well, that was nice for him to come home to, but New York was his love," Barbara Keane said. "People would say they'd never seen anyone coming home from work so happy. His smile stretched from ear to ear."
In his spare time, Mr. Keane enjoyed the outdoors, traveling and attending sporting events. One of his hiking and camping partners was Paul Shine, also of West Caldwell.
"Ed liked seeing the unusual in the woods -- the lakes, the rock formations and other things many people aren't familiar with," Shine said.
Mr. Keane attended St. Peter's Prep in Jersey City and graduated from Newark College of Engineering in 1961 with a degree in mechanical engineering. Before joining the Port Authority, he was employed by Westinghouse in Bloomfield for 21 years.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Keane is survived by a daughter, Dr. Cynthia Keane Polo; a son, Mark; a brother, John; three sisters, Edith Hogan, Margery Delaney and Sister Virginia Keane; and four grandchildren.
A memorial Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at St. Aloysius Church, 219 Bloomfield Ave., Caldwell.
Profile by Guy Sterling published in THE STAR-LEDGER