Category: Archive

Editorial When duty calls

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

On Sunday, in keeping with a fire department tradition, John Downing of Ladder Company 163 treated his colleagues to lunch. Every firefighter does that on the day before he leaves for vacation. Downing was going to Ireland, to visit his wife’s family in County Down.

But this week, it is Anne Downing’s family that is coming to New York. John Downing never made it to Monday. He and two of his colleagues, Brian Fahey and Harry Ford, Irish Americans all, were killed shortly after that celebratory repast in a fire and explosion in the Long Island General Supply Company hardware store on Astoria Boulevard in Queens.

In a particularly poignant and cruel twist, the men, who among them leave behind three wives and eight children, died on Father’s Day.

Firefighters in New York City and elsewhere put their lives on the line every time they don their gear. They’re not called The Bravest for nothing. They are called to duty on even the most mundane of days. They must perform at their best even when they themselves don’t feel 100 percent. And sometimes tragedy strikes, as it did Sunday.

Today, three families grieve and a brotherhood of firemen in New York and across the nation share their deep and profound pain. In the station house of Rescue Company 4, there is posted a small laminated card that speaks to the survivors: "Grieve not nor speak of me with tears, but laugh and talk of me as though I were beside you. I loved you so, ’twas heaven here with you."

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese