Sunday, January 8, 2012


So, after years of thinking, pondering, deciding, re-deciding, tabling, scorning, reassessing....I finally did it.  I got a tattoo. 

Don't worry, Dad.  It does't look trashy.

It's on my waist, so it's not screaming in your face when you see me. And since my lower abdomen looks like a map of the US Interstate system ever since baby #3, a bikini will never adorn my body it will be completely covert unless I decide to show it off.

It's in honor of the 343 FDNY men who sacrificed their lives on September 11, 2001 as they assisted with the most massive rescue operation in American history; and specifically, of John Tierney, the FDNY hero that I memorialize.  I'm not going to post a photo of it, because I'm sorry, I think that's creepy - so I'll describe it instead. It looks a lot like this:


On the left side, it has a little green shamrock in honor of Tierney, and on the right it has a little "L9", which stands for "Ladder 9", his truck number.  The numbers are red.

I thought I'd take this opportunity to copy my September 11 post from last year's blog so that you newbies could meet Johnny Tierney as I have.  Please read...please remember.


I recently got a silver dog tag on a ball bearing chain. On September 11th, it hangs from my neck. The rest of the year, it hangs from my rearview mirror in my car. It is inscribed as follows:

You might not immediately know what “The WTC” stands for, until you see the date that immediately follows it. Then I’m sure it’s crystal clear in your mind. “VOT” stands for “Victim of Terrorism.”

This is his picture. Cute guy, huh. Looks like a baby to me, but maybe that’s because my years are advancing. Tierney’s aren’t. It keeps me awake most nights lately.

I wanted you all to meet Tierney, get to know him the way I have. Here’s his story. I’ve cited my sources below, and I hope that you will visit those sites to learn about other heroes like him.
John Tierney was last seen in the lobby of One World Trade Center. Tierney's shift was ending just as Ladder 9 received the call to head to the financial district, said his cousin, John Schreiner. Tierney, 27, of Staten Island, was told he didn't have to go, but he insisted, even though it meant he'd have to sit atop another firefighter's lap. At the World Trade Center, he again was told he didn't have to go in; again, he insisted. He has not been heard from since. He attended St. Joseph's by the Sea High School and was graduated from St. John's University in 1997 with a degree in psychology. This was his rookie year as a firefighter; he was graduated from the fire academy only in July. "For the past two years or more, all he could think about, and his only goal, was to be a firefighter," Schreiner said. Tierney loved fishing and camping, "but his passion was the guitar. He'd just started playing a year and a half ago, and he wanted to be really good - he practiced until he had blisters, and he loved Bob Dylan." Patriotic, "he has a picture of George Washington kneeling before he went into battle of Valley Forge, and a picture of Paul Revere." As a probationary firefighter in Queens, Tierney achieved a bit of immortality: a newspaper photograph caught him holding a hose, spraying down a building. It was his very first fire. "He died a hero, and we know it must have been quick," Schreiner said. "He would have been so proud of what he did." He is survived by his parents, John and Helen; a brother, Thomas; sisters Mary and Jeanne; two nephews and a niece.
And this is the tribute submitted by his brother, Thomas:

John Patrick Tierney was a firefighter with FDNY Ladder Company 9 (located on Great Jones Street in Manhattan). Johnny, as his family and friends called him, was an amazing young man. At the young age of 27, Johnny was among the 343 missing firefighters helping the thousands of New York citizens down to safety. He was last seen in the lobby of the North Tower, 1 World Trade Center, by a fellow firefighter from Engine 33, located with Ladder Co. 9 on Great Jones Street.

Johnny was born and raised in Staten Island, and is survived by his mother, Helen, his father, John, his brother Thomas, his two sisters, Mary and Jeannie, his two nephews Thomas and James, and his niece Margaret. Johnny attended St. Charles Catholic Elementary School, he then attend St. Joseph by the Sea Catholic High School and went on to attend St. John's Catholic University all located in Staten Island. He was an amazing person, not only to his family, but to all those who encountered him. He was very happy with his life and for that I am grateful.

His dream was to become a firefighter and he was for 8 months before his death. He worked for Ladder Company 9 for 6 short weeks before September 11th. The morning of September 11, 2001, Johnny had worked an overnight shift which had ended that morning at 9:00 a.m. His fellow firefighters insisted that he go home, but being Johnny, he jumped onto the fire truck going to the World Trade Center. That was Johnny, a very loving and giving person, never concerned for his own safety, but the safety of others.
(Tribute submitted by Mildred Rodriguez and Thomas Tierney.)

On Father's Day, as Helen Tierney heard the news that three firefighters in Queens had been killed on the job, her heart broke. For the men who died, she cried. For her son John Patrick Tierney, 27, a probationary firefighter training in Queens at the time, she rejoiced that he had had that day off. "He always said, 'Don't worry, Ma. Everything will be fine.' And it was."

So, on Sept. 11, when his unit, Ladder Company 9 in Manhattan, was called to the World Trade Center, she clung once again to her youngest son's words. Her prayer was that he had headed home to Staten Island that morning. But Mr. Tierney had hopped a fire truck so crowded that he was forced to sit in a colleague's lap. "The other guys told him he didn't have to come," Mrs. Tierney said. "But from the first day he went to probie school, he worked hard, he really wanted to be part of the Fire Department."

And he was, for six weeks.
I can’t personally memorialize all 343 firefighters who died that day. But I can remember one, and Tierney is the one I’ve chosen. And I can tell people like you about him.
Back on September 10, 2001, the day before life changed as we know it, I was 31. I would have looked at Tierney and said, “Meow! FDNY! Sign me up!” He’s definitely someone I would have wanted to date…I’ve always had a thing for first responder-types. Seriously, even as a little girl, I liked the firemen/police officers/paramedics/military guys. Any man in a uniform was all right with me-okay, and still is. I guess I’m a groupie. God, was life ever that carefree?

Fast forward 10 years. I’m 41 and twice divorced. Tierney is still 27, and always will be. He never got married, he never had kids. He’s still a probie with 6 weeks on the job. In these intervening years, we’ve sent thousands upon thousands more of our young men and women to Iraq and Afghanistan to satiate and protect Americans like me. I sent my own son, and praise be to God, he came back to me. I no longer look at Tierney’s photo and think about what a nice guy he would have been for me. I look at him and think, what a nice boy for one of my daughters. I don’t think of him as “Tierney” so much now. I think of him as “Johnny.” Like a mom would. Like his mom would. The difference being, my son came back. Her son didn’t. I didn’t get the call that Mrs. Tierney got that morning. I didn’t have the memorial service for my son, and my son’s name isn’t engraved on some random girl’s dog tag, hanging from a rearview mirror.

My son didn’t have to go into the Army, there was no draft. He knew when he did that he would certainly go to war; it had been well underway for years. But he did it anyway. Johnny didn’t have to go either. Read the articles – he had just finished his shift; his supervisor told him to go home. But Johnny did it anyway. Because that’s what our American sons do when we raise them right.

On September 11, 2011, the memorial will be open to the public at the site. Next year on September 11, the associated museum is scheduled to open. I hope to go someday. The Patriot in me wants to put my hands on Tierney’s name etched in that bronze slab and honor what he did. The Mom in me wants to wash Johnny's name with my tears.

I’m proud of Tierney. I’m proud of Johnny. God bless FDNY and everyone else who runs into the building when everyone else is running out. As long as I live, at least one of you will never be forgotten.

Information about John P. Tierney was pulled from these sites and publications:
New York Times 11/28/2001
For info on dog tags and other memorial items for military MIA, KIA and 9/11 victims, go to:

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