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911-anniversary

Memories of Tommy Haskell

 Battalion Chief Thomas T. Haskell, Jr. -- L-132

Tommy was the oldest of five children. He was very responsible, organized, a teacher of many things, an athlete (especially football), a family man and a patriot.

Tommy wanted to be a firefighter since he was a little toddler. His favorite toys were the big Tonka firetrucks and, of course, footballs. Tommy showed leadership qualities even as a child. He was captain of his football teams in Broncos and junior and
senior high school.

He was very competitive in anything he tried to accomplish. At Easter, he always had to be different and every year he made the ugliest Easter egg. When he started hiding the eggs, he always had to hide one egg in an impossible spot for anyone to find.

He set a record for the One Mile Swim in Boy Scouts. He had the dubious honor of being called the “Cheerleader With the Ugliest Legs” his senior year of high school when he dressed up in his sister’s cheerleading outfit, a borrowed wig and the appropriate underwear.

He even insisted he could keep the house neater than his parents. Of course, he was the only one home at the time, we were all away. When he was too old to play midget football, he came back and helped coach. In baseball, he came back and umpired games. When he had to stop playing for the FDNY football team, he helped coach.

When he joined the FDNY at age 21, he was going into senior year of St. John’s University. He switched to night school so he could get his degree. In his spare time, after probie school and night school, he started studying for the lieutenants test. Of course, he couldn’t take the test since he was on probation, but that didn’t stop him from trying. Tommy was so driven to be the best he could be, he would disappear at parties and family functions and we would find him in a garage or in the quietest spot he could find studying away from the noise.

Every Christmas, Tommy gave everyone a different FDNY shirt. Since he was promoted so fast from lieutenant to captain to battalion chief, he was always covering in different houses. Those shirts have become very precious after losing him.

When his younger brothers, Tim and Ken, his cousin Frankie and his brother-in-law Kevin went into the Fire Academy together in 1993, he was so proud and happy, you would have thought he was the parent. His brother Timmy was also lost on 9-11-01.

When Tommy received severe burns on his left ear and neck and was put on medical leave after one of his first fires, he grumbled and complained until he was finally put back to duty.

One night at dinner, when Tommy was 15 years old, I choked on a piece of food and couldn’t breathe. Tommy performed the Heimlich Maneuver on me and saved my life. My hero even then.

He married his high school sweetheart, Barbara, and they have three beautiful daughters, Meaghan, Erin and Tara. He couldn’t stop smiling whenever he was with them. It was quite funny to see the big macho football player having tea with his little girls and loving every minute of it.

Barbara and Tommy went to Disney almost every year. Tommy would get more rides and sights done in less time than anyone else I know. He would plan the whole trip to Disney like a general planning an attack. It was true leadership quality.

Tommy always had an American flag flying high in his front yard. He loved to go to parades and waving the American flag.

After Thanksgiving, Tommy would take two weeks vacation to set up his phenomenal Christmas village. He worked from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. He named the village, Barbara’s Gardens, Meaghanville, Erinburgh and Taratown after his ladies. He would have a house lighting ceremony and make up questions about different scenes in the village. The first child who could answer the questions correctly received a chocolate kiss from his train which traveled around and through his village.

Tommy was nicknamed the "Whiz Kid" while he was at L-132. He instituted procedures and paperwork as an officer that they are still using today.

Despite unimaginable horror, Tommy led his men about their job of saving as many lives as possible. Displaying bravery that inspired the nation, Tommy continued leading his men on their mission in the South Tower until he was lost in the first collapse.

Thirty minutes later, when the North Tower collapsed, Tommy’s younger brother firefighter Timmy Haskell was also lost.

While we miss Tommy every minute of everyday, we remember him with great love and pride. He died doing what he loved. He was my hero as a child who saved my life. Now he is a hero who saved many lives.

The Haskell family

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