Raymond M. Downey was the battalion chief in charge of special operations in the New York City Fire Department.
Here's his son, Chuck, a fire lieutenant: "Dad joined the Fire Department on April 7, 1962. Coming on in the 60's, they went to a lot of fires. The war years, they termed it. In 1995 he was assigned to Special Operations Command, SOC is the acronym, as chief of rescue operations. . . .
"He was on the Gilmore Commission to fight domestic terrorism. No one's going to see it all, but I don't think anyone thought of the World Trade Center. . . .
"When the south tower went down, there was a lot of Maydays. He survived. A lot of the top brass did. These are all guys with 30- plus years. They went back in. There were two young firemen, he told them, not in the nicest language, to get out of here."
Here's Chief Downey's daughter, Marie Tortorici: "Mommy, Rosalie, is Italian. Daddy's Irish. He would have been 64 on Sept. 19. He's very spiritual. He was in Oklahoma City after the bombing. Gov. Keating gave him a set of rosary beads. He wore them every day. Well, they broke, and he kept them in his pocket. He had them with him, because they're not home. . . .
"When I was a little girl, he was working three jobs to support the family, and he was always too busy to come to the school to do fire prevention week. Last year, when my daughter was in first grade, he went to the school for fire prevention week. I don't know. It's so sad, everything. But a good thing came out of this. My sister, my father called her the baby, we just found out she's pregnant. So she felt like it was a blessing from my father."
We honor you, Raymond Downey.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on October 22, 2001. #Repost @http://www.heroportraits.org/Gallery/default.aspx?id=209
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