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Firefighter Grads More Dedicated and Fearless Than Ever – QNS.com

Firefighter Grads More Dedicated and Fearless Than Ever

The fact that his brother Eugene was one of the 343 firefighters who died trying to save the lives of others on Sept. 11 didnt make Bob Whelan scared.
It made him defiant.
It also deepened his desire to follow in his brothers footsteps and become one of New Yorks Bravest.
"I havent really given much thought to the danger," said Whelan, 28, a resident of Belle Harbor. "I think about how proud I am of Eugene and how much he loved everything about being a firefighter. I just want to be as good at the job as he was."
Whelan is one of 80 Queens residents who next week will graduate the Fire Dept..s first training course since the World Trade Center tragedy.
With a class enrollment of 309 recruits, more than double the usual size, its clear that for the Citys fledgling firefighters, Sept. 11 was a rallying call and not a point of retreat.
"Serving our fellow New Yorkers is in our blood," said Thomas DaParma, Queens trustee for the Uniform Firefighters Assoc. "A large percentage of firefighters grew up here and many have fathers or brothers who are firefighters or police officers.
"They feel the pain that people are going through and they want to be part of the healing process."
Ed Morrisey, 24, one of the recruits, or "probies" as theyre called, is a member of a Queens family that has been fighting fires and saving the lives of New Yorkers for generations. Both of his grandfathers were firemen. So are his brothers Michael, Tommy, and Frank.
"Hes tailor made for it, hes got exactly what it takes to do this job," said Michael Morrisey, embracing his baby brother, who stopped by Ladder 117 in Astoria to say Merry Christmas.
Several of the firefighters from Ladder 117 came over to shake the young recruits hand, wish him luck, or just slap him on the shoulder.
"In what other job would I get a welcome like this?" asked the probie, his eyes surveying the concrete and metal sanctum sanctorum. "This is my new family."
Ed Morrisey was working for the telephone company, installing lines in Jackson Heights, on the morning of Sept. 11.
"I felt helpless that day; there was nothing I could do to help people," he said. "I was in disbelief about what was going on."
He quit the phone company, opting instead for a pay cut and a perilous life as a firefighter.
"Its hard to explain," he shrugged. "Its kind of in my familys blood."
Andrew Brown, 24, of St. Albans, is the first person in his family to attend the fire academy.
"I wanted to be a firefighter ever since I was 9 years old, when I saw a fireman in Jamaica save someones life," said Brown, who is one of only a handful of African-Americans in the graduating class.
Like the other two young firemen, Brown said he doesnt think much about the danger.
"I was so proud of those guys [on Sept. 11]," he said. "I wanted to be part of that brotherhood. They saved thousands of lives. Thats pretty good considering there are only 12,000 firefighters in the entire City."
The 309 trainees go through an 10-week, 400-hour course on Randalls Island, or "The Rock." Much of the instruction is hands-on, according to Virginia Lam, a FDNY spokeswoman. The neophytes are trained in engine, hose and ladder techniques, use of masks, victim removal, forcible entry, building construction, the chemistry of fire and the prevention and containment of fire.
Since Sept. 11, the Department also provides courses in dealing with terrorist attacks, including instruction on recognizing attacks and certain hazardous materials, as well as controlling and protecting crowds.
"I couldnt believe how organized the training is," said Wing Tseng, a Brooklyn probie. "Everyone has a specific job to do and everyone is important to putting the fire out."
On the far-too-frequent days during the 10-week training period, when a memorial service for a fallen firefighter was being held somewhere in the five boroughs, the probies and their teachers dedicated that days training to the memory of the lost hero.
But to Bob Whelan, his big brother Eugenes spirit is at the training camp every day.
"When Im running or doing a drill and Im so exhausted I dont think I can go on anymore, I think of him and it pushes me," he said. "Hes running right beside me. And if I slow down, hell pass me."

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