Ex-FDNY Firefighter Goes Above And Beyond To Help In Japan

Tommy Clarke Travels To Tsunami-Ravaged Nation To Assist

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — He was at ground zero after 9/11 and after the earthquake hit Haiti. Now, a former New York City firefighter says he just had to go to Japan.

Tommy Clarke is determined to help those in need.

Clarke, an FDNY firefighter in the 1980s, once again is using the skills he learned to help in a disaster. Wearing the overalls he wore at ground zero after 9/11, the 50-year-old paid his own expenses to try to make a difference in tsunami-ravaged Japan.

“Total carnage, that’s what brings me here. Having been through 9/11 and Haiti, when I see it on TV it’s not an option. It’s not like, well, should I go or shouldn’t I go? It’s like, I’m going and how am I gonna do it?” Clarke told CBS 2’s Dana Tyler.

But after arriving two weeks ago at the disaster in Sendai, he spent the first days trying to be accepted.

“I had to beg basically to help. I slept at the bus station that night waiting for a cancellation the next morning. When I showed up at the Red Cross station they couldn’t believe I had actually made it there,” Clarke said.

The Staten Island native retired to Minnesota more than 20 years ago. His wife, Jodi, said seeing the tragedy of 9/11 in his hometown, he came back to volunteer with the FDNY. Then, last year, he offered his expertise in Haiti for a month after the horrific earthquake. Now Japan, where Clarke once again broke out his trusted tool belt and turnout coat.

“It can be pretty terrifying. You don’t know what you’re going to find. Anything is a possibility here,” he said.

He said the devastation is heartbreaking for him. The tsunami left a tangled and endless mass of debris.

“House after house for miles … these poor people,” Clarke said.

There’s no estimate of the unofficial number of volunteers in Japan, but Clarke said he never loses hope that he’s there for a reason.

“We didn’t find any cadavers, but we didn’t find any live people. We’re hooting for a miracle. We’re not going to give up until the day we leave,” he said.

Clarke’s wife told Tyler he’ll return home on April 5. She said though he rushes to horrible scenes as a volunteer, she believes he’s doing God’s work and that God will take care of him in danger.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

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  • rusty

    tommy has a chronic lung disease…another 9/11 brother. Ilike that… never give up.

  • john

    tommy has a chronic lung disease…another 9/11 brother. Ilike that… never give up.

  • FDNY

    3weeks no hospitals. tommy has a progresive chronic lung disease and still helps especially at the big 3, when he can. another 9/11 brother. we love you tommy

  • john

    Tommy has an interstial lung disease and will never give up or Never Forget.

  • M. Tani

    Thank you for your efforts, I wish I could have gone myself.

  • Nan

    Tommy needs prayers.

  • diane

    I agree with you. Tommy seems to be a wonderful and caring man. Thank you for your compassion towards others. You are what I hope my own son becomes when he grows up.

  • joe


  • JOEY

    Tommy is the hero among heroes. I say the majority rules in regard to these comments. He appears to have a great trust in God who puts him in these dangerous situations and gives him the strength to help these poor unfortunates in need of so much help. I totallly agree with FDNY 442’s comment to the nay sayers, “When was the last time you helped out? God bless Tommy, I hope he never changes. He’s a man to be proud of and honored. We need more of the Tommys in this world.


  • Michael

    I agree with Marjorie. Having a disability is tough but there are different types and degrees of disabilitites. You go!, Tommy. Keep up the good work and God Bless you for your kindness.

  • Marjorie

    ARE YOU GUYS CRAZY. TOMMY IS A TRUE HERO. This is not about his disabilities but about how he pushes himself to help those in need DISPITE his disabilities. He represents a brotherhood of unsung heroes, EVERY firefighter in the world. Be proud of him as most of us are. Tommy please” Never Give Up.”

  • john

    Looked this guy up………only guy that comes close is a guy that was on the job like 3 weeks……………….

  • Dianne

    Tommy- I appreciate you. Thank you for helping. As for Ted and rustyroo…where does it say he left on a disability and you are paying taxes towards him??? GET THE FACTS and be grateful for all that are like Tom Clarke! It says he was in the FDNY in the 80’s…doesn’t mean he retired from FDNY or is on disability!

    • rustyroo


      please watch this video. At around 15 seconds it states he is on a disabillity pension from the fdny. We dont know all the facts. I have nothing but respect for the guy. I’m just wondering what his disability is. Alot more info is needed. If you can find anything out please send it my way.

      • John Gallagher

        You should go back and watch the video again. It doesn’t say he’s on disability from the fdny. He may be getting Social Security disability. He went there on his own dime, to try to help people out. What have you done to help these people?

      • Rustyroo

        I’m not sure about a social security pension… Fot many reasons. Firefighters dont pay into social security. If he got hurt and was not vested… Is a possibility. There is just not enough info to figure it out. I commend him for his actions. I would like to know more about him.

  • rustyroo

    This video says tommy is retired with a disability pension. I’m trying to find out more but am having a hard time.. what’s his disability? he swings a mean ax


  • Kev

    what a man of principle. I want to be like him

  • gary

    amazing god bless him

  • Raul Del Monte

    This man is blessed by God and the proof is that even though he has been in dangerous places, he is still alive and looking to offer more help. He should be commended for his unselfishness and valuable labor, there should be more like him in times of need. May he live a long and healthy life.

    • Ted

      Give any thought to how he can be retired for 20 years at 50 years old? Any wonder why taxes are so high? Something is wrong here.

      • FDNY442

        Now come on Ted, Lets do the math here, before you start bashing. THe article states he was a fireman in the 80s, so for argument sake lets assume he was on the job in 89, if he was pulling down his full benefits, he would of had to come on the job in 69. and at 50 years old, he would of been hired by the fdny at about 8 years of age. Breath in Ted….. relax, its a typo. plus when was the last time you helped out???

      • John P

        Ted’s only thoughts?

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