The city's fire department apparently lost some of the best of its ranks when the towers of the World Trade Center collapsed yesterday morning after being rammed by two planes.
More than 300 firefighters were missing, but Mayor Rudolph Giuliani confirmed only the deaths of some of its top commanders: William Feehan of Bayside, the first deputy fire commissioner, and the second-in-command to fire commissioner Tom Von Essen.
Peter J. Ganci Jr., the chief of department and its highest-ranking uniformed officer.
The Rev. Mychal Judge, a Catholic chaplain who often presides at funeral masses for firefighters.
"It's ironic. He's an expert in collapses and now he's in one," said Kathy Ugalde, his daughter, before the death became official. "I just feel like my dad saved so many people this way. I just want someone to save him. I just think he deserves it."
The extent of the losses were staggering. Von Essen said still missing were all members of the department's five elite rescue units who were working yesterday. The number of dead firefighters will be hard to establish immediately, the sources said, because an unknown number who were getting off work at 9 a.m. stayed on and rode out with the day shift to help.
James Boyle, former head of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said his son, Michael, was among the missing.
Michael had been scheduled to get off the night tour, Boyle said, but stayed on. Boyle said he found out when he got to his son's firehouse and saw
his son's car outside and his civilian clothes in his locker.
Other officials, asking not to be identified, said the missing also included: Chief Donald Burns, the citywide tour commander at the time; the son of the current union president, Kevin Gallagher; Lt. Patrick Brown of Rescue Co. 1 on the West Side of Manhattan, one of the most decorated firefighters.
Firefighter Terrence Farrell of Huntington was missing, according to his wife, Nora. "He went into work last night and I don't know," she told Newsday.
"I'm sure he's coming home. He always comes home. But he's got to quit this job."