A retired nurse who lost her FDNY firefighter son on 9/11 is giving back by helping families of fallen firefighters nationwide cope with the grief and pain of losing a loved one in the line of duty.
"These families need a lot of hugs and reassurance," said Theresa Mullan, 75, of Bayside, Queens. Her son, Michael Mullan, died in the collapse of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Since then she said she has benefited from counseling and become a vital force in a support network of families through the FDNY Foundation and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
Mullan and hundreds of other families of the fallen participate in seminars, workshops and counseling services. She said they "give us tools on how to get through the grief and be supportive to one another."
In a nationwide effort to expand services to more families, the FDNY Foundation and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation are joining forces to sponsor the first national stair climb at Citi Field on Oct. 10. It will raise money for mental health services, scholarship programs and create a stronger network for surviving family members.
"We hope the city will step up and come together so that we can honor these true heroes," FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said yesterday. He spoke at Ladder Company 20 on Lafayette Street in SoHo, which lost seven members on 9/11.
The first national stair climb is expected to attract thousands of firefighters and other supporters from across the country. They will climb up the stadium's bleachers, said Chief Ronald Jon Siarnicki, executive director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which organizes about 32 climbs annually. Since 2011, the foundation has donated $2.7 million to the FDNY Foundation and the counseling service unit.
"There are still firefighters who are suffering as a result of 9/11," said Dr. Kerry Kelly, FDNY chief medical officer for the Bureau of Health Services. "We have to make sure services are made accessible. Life for these families continues to change. For example, a child may have been 3 when they lost their parent and now they may be facing a drug or alcohol problem."
The FDNY has five counseling sites for families: Brentwood; Orange County; Fort Totten, Queens; Brooklyn; and Manhattan's Ladder Company 20 firehouse.
FDNY Lt. Drew Kane, director of the department's addiction treatment program said: "Since 9/11, we have seen firefighters who were predisposed to a pre-existing condition with drugs or alcohol get worse." He said in the past seven years "there has been a drastic uptick" in drug and alcohol cases among children who lost their fathers on 9/11. Registration is available at nationalstairclimb.org