‘That fire wasn’t so bad, guys’

21 Sep 2020 | 06:18

I hope you will print my letter to the editor. I am a retired New York City fireman (1959-1979). I was one of those who went to Ground Zero after 9/11 to offer my help. Since 9/11 I have had to fight two types of cancer. In 2003 I was told I had a sarcoma of my left knee. After radiation treatment I thought I was finished with cancer. But in 2008 the doctors told me I had melanoma of my right ear. I had surgery to remove it and then the removal of my lymph nodes. Next, chemo treatment. I was still on cancer watch, and this year they have found that I now have cancer of the pancreas. I am back to chemo treatment. I am proud of the small part I played in the recovery.

To the Editor:

I would like to tell you about someone I worked with that was lost on 9/11. His name is William Feehan. He was the son of a New York City fireman. After high school Bill went on to graduate from St. John’s College. He then went on to serve his country in combat during the Korean War. When he came home he had plenty of job offers but Bill always wanted to be a New York City fireman. In October 1959 he was hired as a fireman in the New York Fire Department.

Four years later he took the lieutenant test and passed it. Years later he took the captain test, and again he passed the test. He came to the firehouse that I worked in in Harlem. He quickly gained a reputation as a tough firefighter and his door was always open to anyone who had a problem.

During my years working with him he had a habit of saying to us after a bad fire, “That fire wasn’t so bad, guys.” We would respond and say, “Oh yes, it was,” and we would all laugh.

Bill went on to be promoted to battalion chief and to fight fire in Brooklyn.

Years later I met Bill at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and he told me that he was now the chief of the New York Fire Department. Then one day Bill turned 65 and had to retire, but the fire department did not want to lose him, so they asked him to stay on as department fire commissioner, which is a non-firefighting job.

On 9/11, Bill responded to the Towers to help with the evacuating of the south tower when it came down. He died from his injuries.

When I heard that he had died the first thing that came to mind was Bill was up in heaven and saying to the 342 firefighters, “Come on fellas, that fire wasn’t so bad,” and I’m sure they all responded with, “Oh yes, it was.”

Bill Feehan was a member of the New York Fire Department for 41 years.

Thomas M. Cooney

McAfee