It was a double celebration for the MacDonnell family, as Bryan’s graduation coincides with Mark’s 10th year in the NYPD, where he works for in the Narcotics division.
The MacDonnell family moved from Rathfarnham in Dublin to the Bronx in 1985.
“I loved Ireland,” recalled 31-year-old Mark, who was 12 when the family moved to America.
“You had a lot more freedom; our parents didn’t have to worry so much. We thought of coming to America as nice houses with swimming pools and then lo and behold, there we were in the middle of a tight apartment block in the Bronx. It was a culture shock. Getting established and making friends was the hardest part; that took a long time. But it was definitely the right decision.”
28-year-old Bryan was just eight years old when the family moved.
“I remember Ireland very clearly, any time we go back to visit, I’ve found my way around,” he said.
“It was a very tough move for me and for my brother and sister. New York is so diverse; it’s a huge change. Leaving behind our friends, our house, our dogs — those things are important when you’re a kid. Moving to an apartment where you have so much less space and have to be so much more careful. I remember our first night in the apartment we woke up by the sound of a car being stolen outside.”
Mark’s decision to join the NYPD after studying criminal justice in college was “more of a calling than anything else.”
“I had made my mind up in high school,” he said. “Its great to have the ability to help people, I’ve always had that craving for justice. I think the flexibility of the job is great. No one day is the same. Sometimes you get to work on good cases. Over a period of months, you get to see the end result and it’s gratifying. You feel like what you do is really making a difference.
For Mark, the worst aspect of the job is knowing that there are people he can’t help.
“You’re often seeing people at the lowest point in their life,” he said. “Its worse when kids are involved. They are my soft spot I have to say.”
Hardly surprising, given that Mark and his wife Maggie have two young children of their own, a two-year-old son named Ryan and a daughter named Ailish, who will be one in September.
“Being a fireman is a great job, it’s an honorable job,” said Bryan, who has been working in a Harlem firehouse for just over a month.
“Dealing with the public everyday and helping people out is so great. You’re driving down the street and everyone waves at you. The public really seem to love the fire department and that’s really rewarding.”