I'm rerunning last year's 9/11 post because I think it's one of the best things I've written about the 343 heroes of what is now called "Patriot Day." Tomorrow I'm wearing my FDNY gear and Johnny's dog tag, to hell with the work dress code. I pity the fool who challenges me.
God bless the FDNY tonight.
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:
JOHN P. TIERNEY NY USAYou 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.”
THE WTC 11 SEP 01 VOT
THE WTC 11 SEP 01 VOT
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.
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:
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: www.memorialbracelets.com