Thursday, September 10, 2009

First Deputy Chief
William "Bill" Feehan

Project 2,996 9/11 - Remembrance

The new media is a funny place to be, you never know what you’re going to find there, or who it might come from. Twitter is among the newer services and as a relatively new member I’ve been spending quite a lot of time reading and sending tweets. Several days ago I received a message looking for people to participate in Project 2,996 to write a tribute about one of the people lost on September 11, 2001. I thought that it would be something good to do. I hope everyone that reads this agrees.

Wow, William Feehan. This was a man who truly understood public service. He devoted his entire life to it, and on September 11, 2001 just less than three weeks from his 72nd birthday, and only three months from his planned retirement; he gave his life attempting to save another when the 2nd Tower of the World Trade Center fell. He did not have to be there, he could have been at home watching it on television like most of the citizens of New York, the country, and the world. He could have been long retired and enjoying life without all the worries of a government bureaucracy, but he was there in the thick of things at the one place, the only place he could be ground zero.

Yes, it’s important that he was a decorated veteran of the Korean War, serving your country in the Army in combat certainly earns you some respect and gives you some perspective on life. It’s also important that he served at virtually every position in the FDNY (Fire Department New York) all the way to Commissioner of the Department under Mayor David Dinkins. What is more important is that while he was a brave hero who fought many fires, some of the most significant in the history of New York City, he did all that and came home to a loving wife and four children in Queens. Imagine how big a hero he was to them every day. He certainly set an example for his children that showed them hard work, dedication, and integrity. Every time he left home it could have been the last time they saw him, but he was lucky and so were they, and he was able to set an example for his six grandchildren. There is no doubt in my mind he was their hero too. William Feehan had two daughters, Elizabeth and Tara, and two sons John and William. His Wife of 40 years Elizabeth passed away in 1996.

William Feehan does have a professional story that needs to be told. After completing a degree in education from St. John’s University and Serving in the Army in Korea he began his 42 year career with the FDNY. He started at the bottom in 1959 on October 10th as a Proby Firefighter, served in Division 3, Ladder 3 and the Bureau of Fire Prevention until 1963, and then was promoted to Lieutenant in 1964. He became Chief of the Department in 1991 and Deputy Fire Commissioner since 1992, though acting as Fire Commissioner in 1993 through 1994. He was First Deputy Commissioner on September 11, 2001 becoming the most senior ranking and oldest member of the department killed in the line of duty. Even though he had achieved the highest rank possible in both the Uniform Force and as a Civilian Bill Feehan never stopped fighting fires. “Any call he got in the middle of the night, he would be there. He always had his gear in the Fire Department car” his daughter Tara said. It is also important to note that Bill was a substitute teacher in the public school system for 10 years while working in the Fire Department.

So what have I learned today? I learned about a man who was selfless and a true hero in every sense of the word. I had no idea who he was before I started. I had no clue what I was going to find out if anything about him. I feel exceptionally honored to have his name to give tribute to on this 8th Anniversary of September 11, 2001. If you have enjoyed reading this perhaps you will be inspired to participate next year.

See more Project 2996 tributes here: http:\\

None of us should forget what happened that day. The people who perished in New York City in the World Trade Center, on board the Airliners, and on the ground who were the first to feel the horror of that day. The people in Arlington, VA at the Pentagon and aboard that Airliner and the final flight United Airlines Flight 93 that was forced down by the brave passengers in a field near Shanksville, PA. I work close enough to the Pentagon to have been keenly aware of the events of that day. I did not personally know anyone there who perished, but the loss of any life is precious, particularly when taken in an act of terror. Take care, God Bless, and say a prayer for all those who continue to mourn the loss of their family and friends.

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