Incident Report: Remembering the Father’s Day Fire

Editor’s note: A five-alarm fire in a hardware store in the Astoria section of Queens, NY, on June 17, 2001, killed three FDNY members – Lieutenant John Downing, Firefighter Brian Fahey and Firefighter Harry Ford – and injured numerous others. There...


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I was going in and out of consciousness. I did see the building. It did remind me of the Oklahoma City bombing. I remember getting hit in the head. Guys picked me up and moved me around the corner. I had an imprint of the SCBA harness on my back that was black and blue. I broke my nose and had a cracked orbit around my eye. I received 200 stitches in my head. EMS left me to work on one of the other firefighters who had been trapped by the collapse on the sidewalk. While I was waiting, I saw them remove one of the two other trapped firefighters on the sidewalk and Dr. (Kerry) Kelly, chief medical officer, was doing CPR.

I was taken to New York Cornell Hospital. My head was split open and I was screaming in pain. I was in the hospital for five days. On 9/11, I was scheduled to have debris removed from my forehead. I was all prepped when the doctor came in and said we are not doing this today. He asked if I wanted to accompany him down to Ground Zero in an ambulance. I had a big argument with my wife. I wound up not going to the WTC. The ambulance that the doctor rode in wound up having both paramedics killed and the doctor got a broken leg.

I took my son to 86 funerals after 9/11. I was a member of the Emerald Society Pipe Band. The first funeral I played was for Captain Timothy Stackpole. The band played at 459 memorial services and funerals.