NEW YORK (CBS 2) – The City marked a grim anniversary on Saturday, 10 years after an explosion rocked a burning hardware store in Long Island City, killing three firefighters.
CBS 2’s Lou Young, who was one of the reporters covering the 2001 fire, helped mark the anniversary Saturday.
Children from three New York families brought the ceremonial “gifts” to the altar at St. Sebastian’s Roman Catholic Church. The mass memorialized the three fathers who died ten years ago, on Father’s Day.
John Downing, Brian Fahey and Harry Ford left behind eight kids and three widows, and for the families, it still hurts.
“Ten years later we’re not here just to remember the tragic fire, but to celebrate the lives of these three men,” New York City Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said.
Those mourning on Saturday were united by the job that requires them to run toward danger when every instinct says to run, and to risk everything – and all for complete strangers.
“When you marry a firefighter, you know it is a rule, that this sort of thing can happen,” Mary Fahey said.
The fire that killed Fahey’s husband and the others was seemingly routine at first, but then everything went wrong at once.
“We had people still out when it blew up,” FDNY Captain Joe Gandiello said. “We had people on the roof, we had people on the second floor, there were guys that got blown out of the windows.”
The truth is that the incident could have been much worse – would have been – if not for countless acts of heroism that, for many, was only a temporary reprieve from death.
“There are a lot of people that were there also, unfortunately that performed heroic deeds and survived, only to be killed two months later on September 11,” Capt. Gandiello said.
Ten years ago, Denise Ford made plans for her husband’s funeral on the Monday after Father’s Day weekend. She said the irony of it still stings.
“They were three fathers, and to lose them on that day, I always felt, was very cruel,” Ford said.
It’s believed the fire was caused by a water heater igniting some spilled gasoline. The explosion occurred when the flames reached some stored propane tanks.