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John Flynn
  Irish Voice  


Background
From Rockland County, New York. Grandparents from counties Mayo, Roscommon and Down.

Family
Wife Patricia; sons Michael, 13; Robert, 10.

FDNY background
"My father was on the job for 34 years, and I was exposed to the job through him. I saw the benefits and challenges and decided I'd like that kind of life.

"I joined in 1989, and I was promoted to lieutenant two years ago. I was just assigned to Haz-Mat a week ago; we're one of the few units that respond citywide, as we're a specialized unit."

Describe your September 11 experience
"I was on the phone at home, and the person I was speaking with said a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. I couldn't believe it. I turned the TV on and saw what was happening, then I jumped in my car because I knew I'd be needed.

"I didn't have a place I was assigned to at the time, so I just drove right to the Trade Center. I parked about three blocks north of the North Tower, and was running down the street towards it when I saw it break apart. Had I been three minutes earlier I wouldn't be around right now.

"It was a nightmare, total pandemonium. It was a situation nobody could deal with; your mind just went blank. There was so much that needed to be done, you just did the first thing that you came across.

"I found a guy from Haz-Mat; we lost 11 guys. He was physically all right, but emotionally battered. I stayed with him for a while making sure he was okay. Then I found a civilian body in the middle of West Street. We put him onto a board and carried him away. I think he was blown out of a building window; he was all roughed up. His shirt and shoes were gone, but his pants were still on. It was horrible."

What have you been doing since September 11?
"In the first two and a half weeks I was at ground zero every day except for three, and most nights. It's been very, very stressful. I'm a structural engineer as well, so I've been functioning in that capacity while down there, and more or less looking out for the welfare of the rest of us.

"Haz Mat specializes in bioterrorism, so we've been extremely busy with the anthrax scares as well. The future is bright if you're in bio-terrorism. I don't think there will be any lack of work."

How does it feel to be a member of the New York City Fire Department?
"It's emotionally and physically taxing, but it's gratifying nonetheless."

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