Sunday, August 21, 2016

In Their Blood & Bones

It takes a certain "something" to be a firefighter in New York City.  It is not an occupation for the faint of heart.  Yet is a calling to which certain families are drawn, generation after generation.  And the siren's song calls even those whose own family's history includes at least one line of duty death. 

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, FF Hanley and his brothers from Ladder 20 responded to the World Trade Center before the first alarm had even sounded.  Although Hanley had only been on the job for a little more than five years, he had been part of a house that had experienced tragedy.  Prior to joining Ladder 20, FF Hanley had worked at Engine Co. 257/Ladder Co. 170 in Brooklyn, which lost three firefighters from Ladder 170 in December, 1998, while battling a high-rise fire in Brooklyn.  One of the firefighters who died on that terrible December day had swapped shifts with FF Hanley.  It was something that his father said weighed on his son's mind for a considerable period of time thereafter.  

FF Hanley did not walk away from the FDNY following the December, 1998 fire that claimed the lives of three of his colleagues.  FDNY firefighters have proven themselves to be historically poor at walking away from anything.  It is likely a by-product of a lifetime's worth of moving headlong towards something, no matter how terrible it is, and doing so with all due speed and dispatch. 

On what proved to be the final morning of his life, FF Hanley exhibited that tendency one final time.  He has worked the night shift and was off-duty when he heard on the radio that a plane had struck the World Trade Center.  He knew that was where he was needed and it was there that he went as fast as he could to do all that he could for as long as he could.  

FF Sean S. Hanley - FDNY
Ladder 20

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