MetroFocus: November 30, 2022

METROFOCUS SPECIAL:  INSIDE THE FDNY

Mayor Eric Adams recently named Laura Kavanagh as the FDNY commissioner, elevating a woman to the head of the fire department for the first time in its 157-year history.  Kavanagh now leads the nation’s largest fire department – with roughly 17 thousand employees and a 2 billion dollar budget.  She takes the helm at a pivotal and somewhat uncertain time for the city, amid ongoing concerns about public safety and looming budget troubles.  Tonight, Commissioner Kavanagh joins MetroFocus to discuss her efforts to diversify the FDNY, and about her agenda for modernizing the agency technologically.

For nearly a century the Feehan family has been at the heart of the New York City Fire Department.  From the dawn of the motorized fire truck to the September 11th attacks, at least one member of the Feehan family has worn the FDNY patch.  First Deputy Commissioner Bill Feehan was the highest-ranking member of the department killed on 9/11 and two decades later his legacy lives on thanks in part to his family.  Their extraordinary service and how it reflects the history of the department is the foundation of author Brian McDonald’s new book, “Five Floors Up: The Heroic Family Story of Four Generations in the FDNY,” and the New York Times bestselling writer joins us to discuss this New York family’s lasting impact.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT, WE TALK WITH COMMISSIONER LAURA KAVANAGH, THE FIRST WOMAN TO LEAD THE FDNY IN ITS HISTORY.

HER PURSE TO DIVERSIFY AND MODERNIZE THE DEPARTMENT.

> THEN MEET THE FIREFIGHTING FAMILY CARRYING ON THE LEGACY OF THE HIGHEST RANKING FIREFIGHTER KILLED ON SEPTEMBER 11th.

'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

♪♪

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WALKENHEIM, III.

THE AMBROSE MONEL FOUNDATION.

AND BY --

> GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JACK FORD.

LAURA KAVANAGH MADE HISTORY LAST MONTH BECOMING THE FIRST FEMALE FIRE COMMISSIONER IN NEW YORK CITY HISTORY.

KAVANAGH GOT THE APPOINTMENT AFTER SERVING AS THE ACTING COMMISSIONER AND DOING SUCH A GOOD JOB THAT MAYOR ERIC ADAMS DECIDED TO MAKE IT PERMANENT.

SHE NOW LEADS THE NATION'S LARGEST FIRE DEPARTMENT, ONE WITH ROUGHLY 17,000 EMPLOYEES BUT ONLY 150 FEMALE FIREFIGHTERS.

AT AGE 40, SHE'S ONE OF THE YOUNGEST COMMISSIONERS IN HISTORY.

THE APPOINTMENT IS MORE HISTORIC IS THAT IT MARKS THE WOMEN LEAD THE FIRE DEPARTMENT AND NYPD.

THERE ARE CONCERNS ABOUT PUBLIC SAFETY AND BUDGET TROUBLES.

WE ARE PLEASING THAT JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT HER AGENDA AND FOR ITS ROLE IN CITY LIFE MOVING FORWARD IS THE CITY'S NEW FIRE DEPARTMENT COMMISSIONER, LAURA KAVANAGH.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

I APPRECIATE IT.

I WANT TO GET TO SOME OF THE THINGS YOU WANT TO GET DONE FOR THE FDNY.

LET ME START AT THE BEGINNING.

YOU BEGAN WORKING AT THE FDNY IN 2014.

YOU HAD A HISTORY OF SIGNIFICANT MANAGEMENT ROLES IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR.

MY QUESTION IS THIS.

AS WITH -- I SHOULD NOTE, AS WITH OTHER FIRE COMMISSIONERS, YOU DIDN'T HAVE FIREFIGHTING EXPERIENCE.

AS I SAID, THAT'S NOT THAT UNUSUAL.

WHAT WAS IT THAT DREW YOU TO THE FIRE DEPARTMENT IN THE FIRST PLACE?

YEAH.

I THINK THE BRAND DREW ME.

I THINK EVERYBODY KNOWS ABOUT THE FDNY, ABOUT THEIR STORIED HISTORY, THEIR BRAVERY.

CERTAINLY, WORKING FOR SUCH A HISTORIC ORGANIZATION WAS REALLY I ALSO -- I LIKE A CHALLENGE.

I LIKE TO MAKE GREAT THINGS BETTER.

I LOVE THE CITY.

I THINK THE FDNY IS WOVEN INTO THE DNA OF NEW YORK CITY.

ALL OF THOSE THINGS COMING TOGETHER, I DIDN'T EXPECT TO GO TO THE FIRE DEPARTMENT.

WHEN THE OPPORTUNITY PRESENTED ITSELF, I THINK DEEP DOWN IN MY GUT I JUST KNEW, GREAT ORGANIZATION, GREAT CITY, WEALTH OF OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES THAT THE DEPARTMENT FACED.

I KNEW IT WAS RIGHT.

I FOLLOWED MY GUT.

CLEARLY, THAT HAS WORKED OUT BETTER THAN I COULD HAVE IMAGINED.

I WAS STRUCK BY YOUR LOVE OF THE CITY.

I WAS STRUCK BY THE NUMBER OF YEARS, YOU LIVED IN ALL FIVE BUREAUS.

I HAVE.

YOU START WORKING FOR THE FDNY.

IN THE BEGINNING, DID YOU EVER ENVISION THAT YOU WOULD BE AT ONE POINT IN TIME THE COMMISSIONER OF THE FDNY?

I COULD NOT HAVE IMAGINED THAT IN A MILLION YEARS.

I COULDN'T HAVE.

I KNOW PEOPLE WOULD LOVE TO SAY -- MAYBE I WOULD LOVE TO SAY THIS WAS A GRAND PLAN, BUT IT WAS NOT.

I FEEL LUCKY THAT LIFE HAS WORKED OUT THIS WAY.

LIFE CAN BE INTERESTING AND CHANGE AND WONDERFUL.

IT'S BEEN ALL THOSE THINGS FOR ME.

IT HAS.

AS I SAID IN THE BEGINNING BEFORE WE STARTED ROLLING HERE, CONGRATULATIONS ON A MARVELLOUS ACCOMPLISHMENT.

YOU ARE EMBARKING ON AN IMPORTANT ADVENTURE, IF YOU WILL.

I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT SOME OF THE THIM THINGS YOU WANT TO GET ONE OF THE THINGS IS THE NOTION OF TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION.

HOW DID YOU ENVISION IT HELPING THE FDNY DO ITS JOB BETTER?

SURE.

THIS IS A SUBJECT I LOVE TO TALK ABOUT.

I DON'T THINK PEOPLE ASSOCIATE TECHNOLOGY WITH FIREFIGHTING, EMERGENCY MEDICAL CARE.

REALLY, IN A MODERN WORLD, WHAT TECHNOLOGY OFFERS US IS INFORMATION.

INFORMATION LEADS TO GREATER SAFETY.

BOTH FOR OUR MEMBERS AND FOR THE PUBLIC.

A LOT OF THE TECHNOLOGY THAT WE ARE FOCUSED ON IS ALL ABOUT WHAT SORTS OF INFORMATION CAN WE GET TO FIRST RESPONDERS AHEAD OF A JOB SO THEY CAN KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING INTO?

WHAT SORT OF INFORMATION CAN WE PROVIDE THE CITIZENS THAT MIGHT PREVENT AN EMERGENCY OR MIGHT IN THE MIDST OF AN EMERGENCY MAKE THEM BETTER PREPARED?

THAT'S WHERE WE ARE FOCUSED AND WHAT I WOULD SAY REALLY MY OPERATING MODEL IS IS ALL ABOUT BRINGING MEMBERS IN THE FIELD TOGETHER WITH OUR TECHNOLOGISTS.

I THINK THIS HAS TO BE A JOINT EFFORT.

OTHERWISE, YOU DO HEAR A LOT OF PROJECTS IN GOVERNMENT, IN TECHNOLOGY, THAT DON'T NECESSARILY GO ANYWHERE.

I THINK YOU REALLY NEED TO GET THE END USER INVOLVED.

THAT'S BEEN MY OPERATING MODEL.

THAT'S WORKED OUT FOR US TO HAVE THE GRASS-ROOTS GUIDE WHAT WE COME UP WITH AT HEADQUARTERS.

AS YOU MENTIONED, GETTING BUY-IN FROM THE END USERS, THE FIREFIGHTERS AND EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES FOLKS, IS ESSENTIAL TO THIS.

THIS IS NOT A CRITICISM OF THE THEM.

IN ALL PROFESSIONS, PEOPLE ARE USED TO THE WAY THEY DO BUSINESS.

THEN WHEN SOMEBODY NEWCOMES IN, THEY SAY I HAVE A BETTER IDEA, ARE YOU FINDING OBSTACLES TO GETTING THAT BUY-IN?

CHANGE IS ALL SOMETHING THAT ANY ORGANIZATION FACES AS SOMEWHAT DIFFICULT.

IF SOMETHING IS WORKING, PEOPLE DON'T ALWAYS SEEK TO CHANGE IT.

WHAT I WOULD SAY IN DEFENSE OF OUR MEMBERS, I THINK WHAT OFTEN IS NOT UNDERSTOOD IS THAT THE WAY WE USE TECHNOLOGY IS SO DIFFERENT THAN THE WAY YOU AND I MIGHT USE OUR iPHONE.

THEY ARE WORKING AT 2:00 A.M., THEY MIGHT BE UNDERGROUND, THEY MIGHT BE 100 STORIES UP.

THERE MIGHT BE AN EMERGENCY HAPPENING IN THE MIDDLE OF THAT THAT MEANS THE TECHNOLOGY HAS TO WORK AND WORK 100% OF THE TIME IN ALL THESE DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS, SMOKE, HEAT, SO ON AND SO FORTH.

I THINK REALLY FOR US, IT'S BEEN -- THAT IS WHY HAVING THE END USER INVOLVED IS SO IMPORTANT.

I THINK IT'S WHY SOMETIMES TECHNOLOGY HAS NOT MADE ITS WAY INTO THE WORLD OF FIRST RESPONDERS.

THERE HASN'T REALLY BEEN A FULL APPRECIATION OF THE UNIQUE CIRCUMSTANCES THEY FACE AND HOW THEY NEED THAT TECHNOLOGY TO WORK FOR THEM.

THAT'S WHERE WE CAN CLOSE THE GAP.

LET ME ASK ABOUT ONE OF THE OTHER AREAS YOU HAVE TALKED ABOUT THAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IMPROVEMENT.

THAT IS IN DIVERSITY WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT.

DIVERSITY IN ALL CATEGORIES WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT.

I WANT TO ASK YOU HOW.

BUT FIRST LET ME ASK YOU WHY.

I'M GOING TO POSE A QUESTION YOU PROBABLY HEARD BEFORE.

IT GOING LIKE THIS.

THE FDNY, THEIR JOB IS PERFORMANCE.

THEY HAVE TO GET THINGS DONE.

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE WHAT THE DEPARTMENT LOOKS LIKE IF YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT A BOTTOM LINE EFFORT TO GET THINGS DONE?

WHAT'S YOUR ANSWER TO THAT?

I THINK THERE ARE TWO THINGS.

I COMPLETELY THROW OUT THE NOTION THAT DIVERSITY AND CHANGE AND TRADITION CANNOT COEXIST TOGETHER.

THEY COEXISTED IN THE WAY I WAS BROUGHT UP.

I BELIEVE THAT.

IT WAS THE WAY I WAS RAISED, MY WORLD WAS FORMED.

I HAVE LIVED IN ALL FIVE BUREAUS.

I LOVE THE CITY.

I THINK ITS DIVERSITY IS ITS STRENGTH.

THERE'S EVIDENCE BUT ALSO PERSONAL EXPERIENCE TO SHOW THAT DIVERSE TEAMS BRING ADDITIONAL SKILL SETS TO THE TABLE.

IN A MODERN CHANGING, EVER MORE COMPLEX CITY, THOSE SKILLS ARE ESSENTIAL.

OUR ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE WITH SOMEONE IN THE MIDDLE OF A MEDICAL EMERGENCY IS ESSENTIAL, ALONG WITH THE SKILLS OF TREATING THAT EMERGENCY.

BEING ABLE TO NAVIGATE A COMMUNITY, COMMUNICATE IN AN EMERGENCY WITH THAT COMMUNITY, THOSE ARE THINGS THAT DIVERSITY BRINGS TO THE TABLE.

JUST MAKES US BETTER.

I DON'T THINK IT'S EITHER OR.

I THINK IT'S BOTH.

LET'S TALK ABOUT HOW NOW.

FDNY, STEEPED IN TRADITION.

THAT TRADITION IS WHAT POWERS IT FORWARD AND ALLOWS IT TO BE SO EFFECTIVE AS IT IS.

AS YOU KNOW, TRADITIONS CAN OFTEN THROW UP OBSTACLES TO CHANGE.

HOW DO YOU ENVISION GETTING PAST THE OBSTACLES OF TRADITION AND STRUCTURE TO EXPAND THE NOTION OF DIVERSITY WITHIN THE RANKS?

YEAH.

I THINK ONE PART -- I HAVE HAD SUCK IN.

I HAVE A PROVEN TRACK RECORD WHEN WE LAST OUR LAST RECRUITMENT CAMPAIGN.

THE MOST DIVERSE LIST IN FDNY HISTORY.

IN TERMS OF THE TOOLS AND STRUCTURE, I KNOW HOW TO GET US THERE.

I KNOW HOW TO CREATE A POOL OF CANDIDATES WHO HAVE THE SAME TRADITIONS, THE SAME VALUES BUT WHO LOOK LIKE THE CITY OF NEW YORK.

OVER LAST YEARS, THAT HAS BEGUN TO CHANGE THE FACE OF THE FDNY, EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO.

CERTAINLY, WE TRIPLED THE NUMBER OF WOMEN AND WE HAVE VASTLY INCREASED THE NUMBER OF BLACK, LATINO, ASIAN CANDIDATES.

SO I THINK THERE'S A TRACK RECORD.

WE JUST NEED TO KEEP GOING.

I WOULD SAY, AS A LEADER, I TAKE VERY SERIOUSLY THE IDEA OF DEVELOPING A BENCH OF LEADERS.

THAT'S HOW I -- IT'S HOW MY CAREER WAS GROWN, WORKING IN COMMUNITY ORGANIZING.

IT'S ALL ABOUT DEVELOPING THE NEXT GENERATION OF LEADERS.

EVEN AS I'M JUST STEPPING INTO THIS ROLE, I'M ALREADY THINKING ABOUT, HOW DO WE COACH, TRAIN, MENTOR, FIND A BENCH OF DIVERSE, DEDICATED LEADERS WHO LOVE THE FDNY AND CAN SEE IT FORWARD INTO THE FUTURE?

WE HAVE SEEN A GREAT DEAL OF DISCUSSION, CERTAINLY, ABOUT THE PROBLEMS OF HOMELESSNESS ON THE STREETS, OF MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.

WE NOTE FDNY IS OFTEN THE FIRST RESPONDER TO THOSE TYPES OF ISSUES.

HOW DO YOU MOVE FORWARD CREATING THE BALANCE THAT WE NEED OF PROTECTING SAFETY AND PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF THOSE WHO ARE SUFFERING FROM THESE DIFFICULTIES?

I THINK THAT IS WHERE THE FDNY IS SUCH A GREAT ORGANIZATION TO HELP WITH THESE PUBLIC SAFETY ISSUES.

THEY ARE ONLY THERE TO PROVIDE HELP.

THEY ARE TRAINED IN EMERGENCY MEDICAL CARE.

WE OFTEN SAY THAT THEY ARE REALLY BRINGING THE EMERGENCY ROOM TO THE STREET, WHICH IS REALLY AN INCREDIBLE THING TO PROVIDE CARE UNDER THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES.

WE HAVE DONE A LOT TO BUILD UP THE CAPACITY TO TREAT MENTAL HEALTH EMERGENCIES ON THE STREET.

YOU KNOW ABOUT THE PROGRAM.

AMBULANCES SPECIAL TRAINED WITH A SOCIAL WORKER ON BOARD.

SO THEY ARE MEANT TO NOT ONLY TREAT THE PHYSICAL HEALTH, BUT ALSO THE MENTAL HEALTH EMERGENCY AND GET THAT PERSON INTO REAL LONG-TERM CARE.

THE GOAL FOR THE ADMINISTRATION, FOR ME WHEN WE TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH EMERGENCY, PEOPLE I'M RELATED TO HAVE EXPERIENCED, IT'S ABOUT GETTING THEM INTO CARE.

MAKING SURE THAT THEY CAN FIND THE LONG-TERM SOLUTION THAT JUST ISN'T BETWEEN AN EMERGENCY ROOM AND THE STREET.

A LITTLE MORE THAN A MINUTE LEFT.

THERE'S SO MUCH MORE WE COULD TALK ABOUT.

HOPEFULLY, WE WILL GET YOU ON AGAIN AND CONTINUE THIS CONVERSATION.

I WOULD LOVE THAT.

NOT A BAD PLACE TO LEAVE, WE ARE GETTING INTO THE COLD.

AS YOU KNOW, WE SEE SPIKES IN FIRES, THIS SEASON.

LET ME ASK YOU TO LEAVE US WITH ADVICE.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO MEMBERS OUT THERE IN THE PUBLIC COMING INTO THIS SEASON TO HELP THEM IN PROVIDING THE TYPE OF PROTECTION THAT THEY NEED?

ABSOLUTELY.

AS YOU MENTIONED, FIRES GO UP IN THE WINTER.

THAT'S FROM A NUMBER OF FACTORS.

WHAT I WOULD ENCOURAGE EVERYONE, MY TOP LINE MESSAGE WOULD BE, EVEN THOUGH A FIRE MAYBE DOESN'T HAPPEN FREQUENTLY OR DOESN'T SEEM LIKE IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU, MAKE A PLAN.

MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT TYPE OF BUILDING YOU LIVE IN.

WHAT FLOOR ARE YOU ON?

WHAT KIND OF CONSTRUCTION IS YOUR HOME?

ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO LEAVE IN AN EMERGENCY OR ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO SHELTER IN PLACE?

THAT'S VERY DIFFERENT DEPENDING ON THE BUILDING YOU LIVE IN IN NEW YORK AND OBVIOUSLY NEW YORK IS A COMPLEX CITY.

THAT'S SOMETHING THAT I REALLY ENCOURAGE EVERY SINGLE NEW YORKER TO KNOW AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE ABOUT THE SPACE THEY LIVE IN AND HOW TO MAKE IT SAFE, HOW TO MAKE SURE THEY HAVE A WORKING SMOKE ALARM.

THAT'S THE NUMBER ONE WAY TO SAVE THE LIFE.

COOK SAFELY.

CELEBRATE TRADITIONS SAFELY.

THAT'S THE REASON WE SEE FIRES AROUND THIS TIME OF YEAR.

COOKING AND SOMETIMES IT'S BURNING CANDLES, VARIOUS THINGS THAT HAPPEN WHEN YOU GATHER TOGETHER WITH OUR FAMILY.

WE STILL WANT TO HAPPEN, BUT WE WANT IT TO HAPPEN SAFELY.

WE ENCOURAGE PEOPLE -- WE HAVE A WEBSITE.

I WILL PUSH THAT HERE.

PEOPLE CAN GET MORE DETAILED INFORMATION.

I JUST ENCOURAGE THEM TO THINK ABOUT IT, MAKE A PLAN WITH YOU AND YOUR FAMILY, GET A SMOKE ALARM AND MAKE SURE YOU KNOW HOW TO CELEBRATE SAFELY.

CLEARLY, YOU HAVE A VISION MOVING FORWARD.

WE WANT TO WISH YOU THE BEST OF LUCK MOVING FORWARD WITH YOUR IDEAS AND DOING THE GREAT WORK OF THE FDNY.

COMMISSIONER LAURA KAVANAGH, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

LOOK FORWARD TO TALKING TO YOU AGAIN.

APPRECIATE IT.

YOU BE WILL.

YOU TOO.

THANK YOU.

> FOR FOUR GENERATIONS THE FEEHAN FAMILY HAS BEEN AT THE HEART OF THE NEW YORK CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT.

BILL FEEHAN WAS THE HIGHEST RANKING MEMBER OF THE DEPARTMENT KILLED ON 9/11.

TWO DECADES LATER, HIS LEGACY LIVES ON THANKS TO HIS FAMILY.

THEIR EXTRAORDINARY SERVICE AND HOW IT REFLECTS THE HISTORY OF THE DEPARTMENT IS THE FOUNDATION OF AUTHOR BRIAN McDONALD'S NEW BOOK 'FIVE FLOORS UP: THE HEROIC FAMILY STORY OF FOUR GENERATIONS IN THE FDNY.'

BRIAN McDONALD JOINS US NOW.

WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

NICE TO BE HERE.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

BRIAN, FIRST OF ALL, VERY QUICKLY, WHY IS THE TITLE OF THE BOOK 'FIVE FLOORS UP'? WHAT'S THE SIGNIFICANCE?

WHAT DO THEY SAY ABOUT THE DANGERS THAT FIREFIGHTERS FACE EVERY DAY?

THE SECOND GENERATION MAIN PERSON IN THE STORY IS CHIEF WILLIAM FEEHAN.

IN THE EARLY '70s, HE WAS PROMOTED TO CAPTAIN AND ASSIGNED TO A FIREHOUSE.

THE '70s WAS WHEN THE BRONX WAS BURNING.

OTHER NEIGHBORHOODS WERE ON FIRE ALSO, AS WAS THE NEIGHBORHOOD HE WAS ASSIGNED TO.

HE WALKED INTO THE FIREHOUSE TO SEE A CREW HE WAS GOING TO LEAD NAKED SITTING AT A TABLE.

IT WAS THEIR WAY OF GIVING HIM THE INITIATION.

HE PASSED.

HE GOT HIS MEAL AND WENT TO HIS OFFICE.

THEY USED TO -- WHERE THE FIREHOUSE WAS WAS LINED WITH FIVE STORY TENEMENT BUILDINGS.

THEY ARE ONE OF THE TOUGHEST FIRES TO FIGHT.

IT'S SMALL HALLWAYS, STAIRS MADE OUT OF WOOD, WINDOWS.

WHEN THEY WOULD GET A CALL AT A TENEMENT, THEY WOULD SAY, OUR LUCK IS GOING TO BE IT'S ON THE FIFTH FLOOR, FIVE FLOORS DEEP INTO THE APARTMENT, THE TOUGHEST PLACE TO GO.

THEY CAME UP WITH THE EXPRESSION.

THAT'S HOW I GOT THE TITLE FOR THE BOOK.

ACTUALLY, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT YOUR BOOK REALLY UNDERLINES IS JUST REALLY, WE ALL KNOW IT, BUT YOUR BOOK SHOWS IT, HOW DANGEROUS IT IS FOR THESE MEN EVERY DAY.

LET'S MOVE ON.

AS WE SAID, THE CHIEF PROTAGONIST IS CHIEF BILL FEEHAN.

WE WILL GET INTO HIS STORY.

YOU START WITH THE STORY OF HIS FATHER, WILLIAM PATRICK FEEHAN, THE MAN WHO BEGAN THIS FIREFIGHTING DYNASTY.

TELL US ABOUT HIM AND HOW HE REFLECTED THE FDNY OF HIS TIME.

HE WAS A LATE COMER.

THERE WERE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING IT.

HE WAS THE YOUNGEST OF TEN CHILDREN OF AN IRISH IMMIGRANT FAMILY.

HE TOOK CARE OF HIS MOTHER UNTIL SHE DIED.

HE JOINED THE DEPARTMENT WHEN HE WAS 34.

AS SOON AS HE GOT INTO THE DEPARTMENT, HE KNEW WHAT HE WANTED TO DO.

HE WAS FEROCIOUS AS A FIREFIGHTER.

ONE OF THE THINGS I FOUND OUT, THERE'S A CLASS OF FIREFIGHTER WHO WILL STAY AT A FIREFIGHTER, WILL NOT LOOK TO BE PROMOTED BECAUSE THEY LOVE THE ACTION OF RUNNING INTO BURNING BUILDINGS.

NOTHING TO DO WITH ANY AMBITION TO GET AHEAD OR ANYTHING.

THEY WANT TO FIGHT FIRES.

WILLIAM FEEHAN WAS THAT FIREFIGHTER.

HE HAD WHAT I LIKE TO CALL A HERO GENE.

HE WOULD RUN INTO A BURNING BUILDING TO SAVE SOMEBODY HE DIDN'T KNOW WITH NO REGARD FOR HIS OWN SAFETY.

HE WAS HOSPITALIZED, I BELIEVE, AT LEAST FOUR TIMES.

IT WAS A DANGEROUS TIME TO BE A FIREFIGHTER.

HIS SON WAS ALSO A HERO.

UNLIKE HIS FATHER, I DON'T KNOW IF HE HAD AMBITION, BUT HE -- TELL US ABOUT HIM.

GIVE US THE HIGHLIGHTS OF CHIEF FEEHAN'S FDNY CAREER.

REMARKABLE CAREER.

UNIQUE CAREER.

HE WAS THE ONLY FIREFIGHTER AND ONLY MEMBER OF THE FIRE DEPARTMENT TO HOLD EVERY RANK IN THE DEPARTMENT, INCLUDING FIRE COMMISSIONER FOR A SHORT TIME IN THE 1990s.

I THINK HIS WIFE HAD A LOT TO DO WITH IT.

HIM NOT STAYING -- I THINK HE WOULD HAVE STAYED AS A FIREFIGHTER.

HE LOVED THE ACTION.

HE WANTED TO START A FAMILY.

HIS WIFE WAS FORCED TO BE RECKONED WITH AS HOME.

SHE WANTED TO MAKE MORE MONEY.

FIREFIGHTERS WERE WOEFULLY UNDERPAID.

WHEN YOU TRY TO RAISE A FAMILY ON THAT KIND OF A SALARY, YOU HAVE TO NOT ONLY GO UP THE LADDER, BUT YOU HAVE TO WORK SECOND JOBS.

FIREFIGHTERS ARE FAMOUS -- FIREFIGHTERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE FAMOUS FOR MOONLIGHTING IN OTHER JOBS.

CHIEF FEEHAN HAD TO DO IT BECAUSE OF THE KIDS AND TUITION.

LET'S TURN TO 9/11, WHICH OUR VIEWERS WOULD GUESS IS THE MOST MOVING AND POWERFUL SECTION OF YOUR BOOK.

AS YOU WRITE, LEARNING ON THE MORNING OF 9/11 HIS FATHER RUSHED TO THE POWERS, BILLY CALMED HIS CONCERNS ABOUT REASONING THAT SOMEONE SO HIGH IN THE CHAIN OF COMMAND AND 71 YEARS OLD WOULD NOT BE PUT IN HARM'S WAY.

BUT HE PAID THE ULTIMATE PRICE.

HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

HOW DOES A 71-YEAR-OLD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER END UP IN THE THICK OF IT?

THE WAY I WAS THINKING OF IT WHEN I WAS READING YOUR BOOK WAS LIKE IF EISENHOWER HAD BEEN IN ONE OF THOSE LANDING BOATS ON D-DAY.

HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

HIS FACE FELT THE HEAT OF A THOUSAND FIRES.

PEOPLE TAKEN ME TO TASK ON THAT.

HE WORKED IN BUSY FIREHOUSES.

HE DIDN'T KNOW ANY OTHER WAY.

WHEN BILLY, HIS SON, AT FIRST BELIEVED THAT HIS FATHER WOULD BE SAFE, ON FURTHER CONSIDERATION HE KNEW THAT HIS FATHER WAS GOING TO BE RIGHT IN THE MIDST OF IT.

THERE WAS NO CHOICE.

WHEN HE WAS IN THE NORTH TOWER AND THE NORTH TOWER WAS THE FIRST COMMAND POST AND CHIEF -- THE COMMISSIONER DIDN'T WANT HIM THERE, TOLD SOMEBODY TO SAY, THIS IS NO PLACE FOR A 71-YEAR-OLD, AND HE WENT OVER TO CHIEF FEEHAN AND SAID, LET'S PUT YOU WHERE YOU CAN MANAGE THINGS AND CHIEF FEEHAN HAD SHORT WORDS TO HIM.

IT TRANSLATED MEANS, YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME.

AS YOU WRITE, TO ADD INSULT TO INJURY, THE COMMISSIONER ASKED HIM TO GIVE ANOTHER FIREFIGHTER HIS HELMET.

IT DIDN'T GO SO WELL.

HE MIGHT AS WELL HAVE ASKED HIM FOR HIS PANTS.

IT WAS NOT GOING TO FLY.

AS IT TURNED OUT, HE WAS -- AFTER THE FIRST TOWER CAME DOWN, IT DAMAGED THE MARRIOTT HOTEL.

THERE WERE FIREFIGHTERS TRAPPED.

BILL FEEHAN ALONG WITH THE CHIEF OF THE DEPARTMENT WERE ORCHESTRATING A RESCUE OPERATION FOR FIREFIGHTERS STUCK -- TRAPPED IN THE MARRIOTT.

THAT'S WHEN THE NORTH TOWER CAME DOWN AND KILLED ALL THREE OF THEM.

HIS FAMILY HAS THE CONSOLATION OF KNOWING THAT CHIEF FEEHAN -- THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE WAY HE WANTED TO GO, FROM EVERYTHING YOU WRITE.

IT SEEMS THAT'S THE TRUTH.

CORRECT?

YEAH.

BILLY -- NEXT DAY BILLY JUNIOR -- HE IS NOT A JUNIOR, BUT YOUNGER BILLY WENT TO SEE WHERE HIS DAD WAS KILLED.

IN THE PILE IT WAS JUST -- IT WAS A CRIME SCENE.

IT WAS A SMOKING, VERY DANGEROUS PLACE.

HE GOT TO WHERE HIS FATHER WAS KILLED.

HE SAID HE COULD HAVE STAYED THERE ALL NIGHT.

HE FELT LIKE HIS FATHER'S LAST BREATH HUNG IN THE AIR.

IT WAS VERY EMOTIONAL.

HE TELLS THE STORY 21 YEARS LATER AND THE TEARS COME DOWN.

YOU WRITE ABOUT A NUMBER OF FIRES THAT OCCURRED OVER THE YEARS IN THE CITY.

FIRES WHICH CONTAINED LESSONS THAT IF THEY HAD BEEN HEEDED WOULD PROBABLY HAVE SAVED A LOT OF LIVES ON 9/11, A LOT OF FIREFIGHTERS.

WHAT WERE THOSE LESSONS WEREN'T HEEDED?

HAVE THEY BEEN HEEDED SINCE 9/11?

WELL, YEAH, THE SHORT ANSWER IS YES.

I DID AN EVENT WITH CHIEF FIFER, THE FIRST CHIEF -- A FRENCH FILMER WAS FOLLOWING THE CHIEF.

HE WAS THAT CHIEF.

REMARKABLE MAN, AMERICAN HERO.

HE WORKED TIRELESSLY TO SOLVE SOME OF THE PROBLEMS THAT SHOWED ON 9/11, INCLUDING THE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE AGENCIES.

THERE WERE POLICE IN HELICOPTERS OVER THE BUILDINGS WARNING THE POLICE COMMAND THE BUILDINGS WERE GOING TO COME DOWN.

THAT NEVER GOT TO THE FIRE DEPARTMENT.

THERE'S A LOT OF CULTURE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO DEPARTMENTS.

BUT IT WAS JUST -- IT WAS THE STRUCTURE WAS OFF, THE STRUCTURE WAS WRONG.

DONE AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF REPAIR IN THAT REGARD.

THE SAME THING IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

THE COMMUNICATION IS KEY.

THERE WAS, AS YOU POINT OUT IN THE BOOK, THERE WERE SIGNS THAT SKYSCRAPERS, FACED WITH SEVERE FIRES, COULD BE VULNERABLE.

PEOPLE THOUGHT THAT THEY WOULDN'T BE, EVEN AS LATE AS 9/11.

IN '93, CHIEF FEEHAN WENT TO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER BOMBING THAT BLEW A SEVEN-STORY DEEP HOLE UNDER THE BUILDING.

HE WAS CONVINCED THESE BUILDINGS WOULD NEVER COME DOWN.

THE TERRORISTS WANTED KNOCK DOWN THE BUILDING.

THEY THOUGHT IT WOULD HIT THE SECOND BUILDING AND GO.

THAT WAS THEIR AIM.

IT DIDN'T HAPPEN.

FEEHAN WAS PRETTY CONFIDENT THAT THE BUILDING WOULDN'T COME DOWN.

HOWEVER, THERE WERE -- HE RESPONDED TO A FIRE IN 1 NEW YORK PLAZA.

IT WAS IN THE FINANCIAL DISTRICT.

THE FIRE WARPED THE STRUTS.

THE INFRASTRUCTURE?

YEAH.

THE STRUCTURE OF IT.

THAT BUILDING WOULD HAVE COME DOWN HAD THE FIRE BEEN AS HOT AS THE FIRE IN THE WORLD TRADE CENTER.

YOUR BOOK, YOU BRIEFLY TALK ABOUT TWO OTHER GENERATIONS OF FEEHANS.

THERE'S HIS SON JOHN AND HIS SON-IN-LAW BRIAN.

DEVON PLUS HIS GRANDSON.

WHAT'S HIS NAME?

CONNOR.

THEY REFLECT THE SAME KIND OF QUALITIES, EXCEPTIONAL QUALITIES THAT CHIEF FEEHAN DID.

YOU WRITE IN THE BOOK THAT THE FDNY DIDN'T ALWAYS -- HAD HAD ITS OWN PROBLEMS, HAD QUALITIES NO SO EXEMPLARY.

HAVE THOSE PROBLEMS BEEN OVERCOME?

SLOWLY BUT SURELY.

NOBODY IS GOING TO ACCUSE THE FIRE DEPARTMENT OF BEING AHEAD OF THE CURVE WHEN IT COMES TO REPRESENTING THE CITY THEY REPRESENT.

IN CONNOR'S CLASS, THERE WAS MOST WOMEN PASSED THE ACADEMY AND WENT ON TO THE FIRE DEPARTMENT.

IT WAS ALSO A TEST THAT OVER 50% OF THE APPLICANTS WERE MINORITY.

THAT'S A GREAT, GREAT SERVICE FOR THE CITY THAT WE ARE GETTING A FIRE DEPARTMENT LIKE THAT.

IT'S CHANGING SLOWLY, BUT IT'S CHANGING.

WITH THE FDNY MODERNIZING AND MAKING CHANGES YOU MENTIONED, DO YOU THINK THAT A DYNASTY LIKE THE FEEHANS WE WILL CONTINUE TO SEE THEM IN THE FUTURE?

OR DO YOU THINK THOSE DYNASTIES ARE ACTUALLY A THING OF THE PAST?

I DON'T THINK THEY WILL BE LIKE IRISH FAMILIES OR ITALIAN FAMIIES LIKE YOU SEE.

I THINK THERE'S A CHANCE FOR THAT TO HAPPEN, BUT JUST RECENTLY I WAS READING ABOUT A THREE GENERATION BLACK FAMILY OF NEW YORK CITY FIREFIGHTERS.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I WAS -- THAT REALLY SURPRISED ME ABOUT DOING THE RESEARCH ON THE BOOK IS HOW MUCH FUN FIREFIGHTERS HAVE.

YES, THEY HAVE DANGEROUS JOBS.

NO DOUBT ABOUT IT.

BUT ALL OF THEM LOVE TO GO TO WORK.

WHEN THE KIDS SEE THE PARENTS LOVING TO GO, THAT MAKES THE KIDS WANT TO.

BRIAN, WE WILL HAVE TO END IT THERE.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US AND FOR YOUR BOOK.

I HOPE A LOT OF PEOPLE BUY THE BOOK.

THANK YOU.

THANKS A LOT.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY, SUE AND EDGAR WALKENHEIM FUND, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBURG

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