Recently, a retired FDNY captain I had talked with at length passed away. Captain Dan Tracy was in his 80s. He had been ill, but never mentioned it to me. I had the pleasure of sitting next to him at several breakfasts held monthly among retired firefighters and I had the honor of speaking with him at his house a few months ago.
Dan Tracy was appointed to the FDNY in 1959 and assigned to Ladder 120 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. During the next 10 years, he made four rescues and received three medals for his bravery. One of the people he rescued was a small child. A picture of Dan holding the child up after the fire appeared on the front page of the New York Daily News.
Comments made after his passing are reflective of how Dan Tracy was thought of by fellow firefighters. Here’s a tribute written by Firefighter Will Hickey of Ladder 120:
Captain Dan Tracy represented the very best of the FDNY. He retired as one the most decorated firefighters in the history of The Job, and a man whose humble demeanor is synonymous with the definition of that of a New York City firefighter. Life is a journey, one that is full of gifts. Every once in a while during this journey we are blessed to be in the presence of a special person whose actions inspire us (to be just a little bit better). When you come across a person such as this – it is a gift. The Good Lord bestowed such a gift upon Watkins Street in the form of Dan Tracy.
Dan was a three-time FDNY Medal Day Winner, had numerous citations for heroism and bravery, was on the front page of the Daily News, a charter member of L175 as a lieutenant, was a three-time Daily News “Hero of the Month,” saw a massive billboard with his likeness hung over the “cut” at Broadway Junction for several years, received a personal letter of commendation from Senator Robert F. Kennedy just months before his assassination, saw the establishment of the four-year “Fireman Daniel J. Tracy Scholarship” at St. John’s University (which continues to this day), won the Journal American Award, and was part of the select group of officers who helped author firefighting tactics “Ladders 3,” which was the literary start of all official FDNY Firefighting Procedures – and a document that Captain Higgins from Engine 231 calls, “The Bible.”
Dan Tracy was an iconic figure and will remain a pillar of Watkins Street and will be remembered as a man who has established a bar of excellence which all of us will strive to uphold for eternity. Dan Tracy was the epitome of a gentleman and a guy whose radiant personality just made you feel good after being around him.
Dan asked us to please convey to all that he was prepared for this final chapter and was well aware of the outpouring of support directed toward his family. We brought him a Watkins Street patch...and the first thing he asked us about was the “fire duty.” He clutched our patch on his chest for the duration of our visit, he told us two funny stories, he spoke with reverence about the fellas he had the pleasure to work with, he told us about a couple of “interesting” characters from the old neighborhood…and his eyes teared up when he spoke about his beloved Watkins Street. He kept thanking the current members for keeping the “Tradition” alive.
His eyes lit up when we discussed the Ladder 120 Centennial. Then quietly, Dan smiled and asked us to please just let everyone know, “I’m really doing OK.”
Dan Tracy is a Watkins Street Icon. “The Tradition Continues.” n