Friend remembers Hickey's humor
After almost ten years, it still hurts to think about Brian and all the other friends we lost.
I miss my long conversations with Brian about the fire service in Nassau, the old firehouse on Queens Boulevard, where everyone had moved on to and our families. Brian's eyes always lit up when he talked about Donna and the kids. He also had a great sense of humor and that sideways grin when the subject of his joke finally caught on that they'd just been had! It was always good natured though.
Brian was a true hero, the definition of a hero. His heart was huge and he had passion. I miss him. God bless Donna, the kids and now the grandkids in their new lives ten years later. You all deserve all the happiness you can find.
I consider it an honor to have been a friend of Brian's. I still keep his picture in my car.
James Adams, Leawood KS
Brian C. Hickey's career as a New York City firefighter began 30 years ago on Sept. 5, 1981. After completing assignments with Engine 36, in Harlem, Ladder 38 in the Bronx and Rescue 4 in Queens, he was promoted to lieutenant and was assigned to Ladder 126 in Jamaica, Queens. Eventually he was promoted to captain, and at the request of Special Operations Chief Ray Downey, he was assigned once again to Rescue 4, now as their commander.
Rescue Company 4, as does all five rescue companies throughout the city, rushes to every major fire, not only to fight flames, but mainly to save trapped civilians and firefighters. Brian took it to heart when two of his men were killed at a fire and explosion in Astoria, Queens on Father's Day, June 17, 2001. He himself was blown out of the building. With his leg in a brace he attended the funeral masses for both men, FF Harry Ford and FF Brian Fahey. His injury caused him to stay out on medical leave until Sept. 5, 2001. Yet the 47-year-old captain, who had suffered burns and other injuries many times on the job, never dwelled on the dangers. Instead, he spoke with pride of the brotherhood of firefighters.
On only his second tour back to work since the Father's Day fire, Brian was filling in for the captain of Rescue 3 in the Bronx on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists. All five rescue companies, many ladder and engine companies and squads and all their crews died -- totaling 343 FDNY members -- all responding to their final alarm.
Brian was a chief instructor at the Nassau County Fire Academy and also a 30-year volunteer firefighter in Bethpage, where he grew up. He married his high school sweetheart, Donna, and had four children: Danny, Dennis, Jaclyn and Kevin. Danny, after completing four years in the Marine Corp, is now a New York City firefighter assigned to Ladder 126, his father's old company.
In 1992, Captain Hickey and his only brother, Raymond, created "Brothers in Battle," a 45-minute video documentary about firefighting. It is still used as a training film at the FDNY Fire Academy on Randell's Island. In 1993, Raymond, at age 34, died of cancer. Brian was at his brother's side throughout Ray's pain and suffering. We never got the chance to say goodbye to Brian, he was gone from this earth within seconds. But he died ... the way he always said he would prefer to, in line of duty, especially so after watching his brother die so slowly through 10 months of agonizing cancer.
Brian thrived and thrilled in the work and the adventure of his calling, but he most especially cherished the many great friendships he acquired with the men he worked with, respected, and loved -- his “Brothers in Battle.” As for myself, my wife, Florence, and our two daughters, Mary and Lori, we could not be prouder of our two sons and brothers. Our loss leaves a void that can never be filled.
Raymond L. Hickey, Bethpage
This run was different from all in the past, they knew as they raced to the towers.
From all points of the city they came, unknowing they faced their last hours.
Into the towers they charged, to save people they never met,
Knowing well of the danger, as bad as it ever could get.
We did not know on that fateful morn, our son was in Tower Two,
But we knew for sure he was somewhere there, leading his gallant crew.
As the towers collapsed before our eyes, to myself I began to pray,
Brian, Brian my son, God please be with you today.
We so often prayed his end was quick, that he suffered little or no pain.
We often wonder, what his last thought was, as his life began to wane.
Although ten years have come and gone, since 9/11/01,
Our hearts never let us forget, the loss of our wonderful son.
Through a year of constant digging, at that holy, sacred ground,
A battered helmet and two small bones, was all his brothers found.
Dressed in their blues his brothers came, hundreds lined row on row,
To give their respect at his funeral mass, so many he did know.
To the wail of the pipes and muffled drums, they saluted his empty coffin,
An act they have done so many times, much, much too often.
The pipes and drums long silent now, still echo in our ears.
The image of the long blue lines, yet blur our eyes with tears.
Time heals all wounds, so someone said, but was wrong, and that's for sure.
Forever more when a child is lost, this wound you will endure.
The firefighters, police officers and all the emergency people who rushed into the World Trade Center Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, most likely will never be enrolled in a national memorial registry as soldiers ‘killed in action’. The fact is, they were the front line soldiers, an ‘army’ by any other name, all ‘killed in action’ on the first day of the first war of the 21st century. One of those soldiers was my son.
On Sept. 5, 1981, on the steps of City Hall, my son, Brian C. Hickey, was sworn in as a member of the FDNY. Completing proby school, he was assigned to Engine 36 in Harlem. Five months later, in February, 1982, I “rode” with him for the first time and continued “riding” with him for the next 20 years whenever he asked me to “come in.” I never refused. Many times I even took two days off from my own job to be with my son on his ‘24s’.
From Engine 36, he moved to Ladder 38, then to Rescue 4. From there he made lieutenant, bounced for a while, then settled into Ladder 126 for a few years. Then, promoted to captain, bounced again for a while until one day he received a call from Ray Downey, (also killed on 9/11) Chief of Special Operations, offering Brian the captain’s spot in Rescue 4, which he accepted without hesitation.
Throughout his career, in ever company he ever worked in, I listened to many men praise him for his knowledge and love of the job, his honesty, integrity, his sincere care for his men, and for his bravery. Through him, I was privileged and honored to have met the finest, and by far the bravest men I’ve ever known in my life.
On a cold winter night in February 1982, with only four months out of proby school, the very first night I ‘rode’ with my son in Engine 36, he had the ‘watch’ at three in the morning. The house was quiet, everyone asleep but Brian and I sitting at the watch desk. He said, "Dad, I can't’ believe I'm here, my dream came true. I only hope that time goes slow so I can wallow in this job.” His first and middle name being, Brian Christopher, I kiddingly said, “someday you will be a Battalion Chief on this job Bri and on your desk will no doubt be a small brass plaque stating, BC, BC Hickey." We laughed a bit, for it sounded funny.
As always is the case, 20 years ‘flew’ by, 20 years and six days exactly, and my son had answered his final alarm. Although our hearts are breaking, I know Brian died as he would want to, with his men. I cherish the memory of that moment, that precious moment he and I shared at three in the morning so long ago. He was my hero long before 9/11 and although I was almost a head over him, to me he was 10 feet tall. My Flo and I will miss him forever. Being on the list to be promoted to chief, after his death he was posthumously promoted to Battalion Chief. He never did get to see that little brass plaque which I had made. I look at every day, but I’m not laughing.
When we moved from Queens to Bethpage 55 years ago, Brian was only a little over two years old. Bethpage, the town Brian loved so much, showed their love for him in return. There is now a “Brian C. Hickey Blvd” and the Bethpage Post Office was renamed in his honor. It is now, “The Brian C. Hickey Post Office.” His photo is displayed on the wall inside for all to see. Brian left behind his wife, Donna, and four children.
Raymond L. Hickey, Bethpage
Brian you were my best friend, you were in my wedding party and we served together in the fire department. Your death had a great impact on my life. I think of you and our great friendship often.
You are a true American hero!
Ex-Captain Darryl J. Martin, Port Jefferson
I was a letter carrier for years to the Hickey family and knew Brian as a boy. Great family and I am really sorry for your loss.
Harvey Diamond, Moriches