This Firefighter Hero WOD is is dedicated to John Tierney, FDNY, Ladder 9, who was killed on September 11, 2001.
John Patrick Tierney was a Fire Department “probie,” but he conducted himself like a veteran. His shift at Ladder Co. 9 in the Manhattan’s East Village had just ended on Sept. 11 when the call came in to head to the Twin Towers. There was no room on the truck, so he sat on the lap of another firefighter as they rushed to the disaster site.
They entered Tower 1 and had climbed to the 30th floor when the call came to evacuate. He was last seen in the lobby. Five members of his company made it out, but three — including Mr. Tierney — are among the missing. The 27-year-old had been a probationary firefighter for only six weeks, after graduating from the academy in July.
“He had to do a lot of cleaning up,” reported his mother, the former Helen Casey, “because he was new. He couldn’t sit down until everyone was seated. He had to be the first one up to do the dishes. He had to be busy all the time, and if he wasn’t busy he had to look busy. He enjoyed it all and accepted it as a probie.”
While they were in training, his class spent time in a firehouse in Elmhurst, Queens, where his action at a fire was captured in a newspaper photo. He wanted the assignment in Manhattan “to be where it’s busy and he could learn the job and really get out there,” said his mother.
“He would often sit and study in his spare time,” Mrs. Tierney added. “It’s hard to believe he’s not around.” His parents said they will remember his quiet, easy-going nature and how devoted and caring he was.
The Oakwood native graduated from St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School, and earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology from St. John’s University in 1997. He enjoyed fishing from a friend’s boat in Great Kills or while camping in the Catskills. He especially loved to play his guitar, and the music of Bob Dylan and the Beatles were among his favorites. He was taking lessons but had put off performing for his mother because he thought he was “not good enough yet,” she recalled.
“John was helpful, kind, fun-loving and a good friend to all of us. He played a big part in our lives and we will never forget him,” said his brother, Thomas, and his sisters, Mary Ellen DiGiacomo and Jeanne Neumeyer.
Thomas Tierney, a police lieutenant working out of the 122nd Precinct, helped out with digging at Ground Zero for three days after the disaster.
Mrs. Tierney and the family have been overwhelmed by the kindness of the Fire Department. “We often heard stories that the firefighters are such a tight group, but you have no idea until you have experienced it. Their spirit and generosity, even though they are so disheartened by all that has happened, is remarkable.
“We were invited to see the firehouse where he worked, and we are happy we did that. Now we are able to picture where he was working.”
At an information session for firefighters’ families at a hotel in Manhattan soon after the attack, a request was made for family members to be able to visit the site of the tragedy. Arrangements were made for boats to transport them from the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the Tierney family went. Although she was reluctant to go, Mrs. Tierney was glad she made the trip.
“It’s like a war zone,” she said. “At that point, we decided to have the memorial mass. It really helped us to visit the site and to go to the memorial near the site.”