Firefighter Never Let His Family Down
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>By Collin Nash
>STAFF WRITER
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>January 10, 2002
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>William Johnston always showed up.
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>The second of four children, Johnston was excited at the prospect of becoming an uncle for the first time. His sister, Diane Cuff of Smithtown, the expectant mother, had nailed down plans for a shower on Sept. 30, said another sister, Christine Johnston.
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>To celebrate the momentous occasion, the family decided to buck tradition and invite the men to the shower. All of them, including Billy, as he was known, had to be there at 4. "He was really looking forward to it," said his sister, Christine.
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>Mourning Johnston's loss in the north tower, the family clung to hopes that his remains would be recovered before the baby's shower. But the day came and went without any news.
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>The next day, though, her uncle, Bobby Johnston - a firefighter with Engine Co. 238 in Brownsville, Brooklyn - showed up at the family's North Babylon home with astonishing news. Johnston's remains had been recovered at 4 p.m. on Sept. 30.
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>"See," his sister recalled her elated mother, Joy, saying, "he's never let me down."
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>Johnston's nephew, John William Cuff, didn't let the family down either. He showed up on Nov. 28.
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>Johnston, 31, was assigned to Engine Co. 276 in Brooklyn. On Sept. 11, he was on rotation at Engine Co. 6 in Manhattan near City Hall.
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>One of four from his company who died in the attacks, Johnston was memorialized Oct. 5 at Our Lady of Grace Church in West Babylon. He was buried in St. Charles Cemetery, Lindenhurst. His sister, Christine, said a memorial scholarship fund named for him is being established at North Babylon High School, his alma mater.
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>Born and raised in North Babylon, Johnston was a bachelor and lived in Lindenhurst. Before joining the fire department, his sister said he worked with his father, William, at the Transit Authority for three years as an iron worker on elevated subway tracks.
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>A member of the first class of 2000, Billy had a lifelong dream of becoming a firefighter, his sister said. Both Johnston and his brother, Robert, now a volunteer firefighter in North Babylon, took the test together, she said.
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>She said Johnston was drawn to the profession by the notion of being a public servant as well as for the camaraderie among firefighters. He was the star athlete at Engine Co. 6, where he used his soccer prowess to land the position of starting placekicker for the FDNY football team. He also started as leftfielder on the softball team.
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>Johnston was as well known for practical jokes as he was for his athletic abilities, said his sister, Christine. While traveling with the softball team in Maryland shortly before Sept. 11, a fellow Engine 6 comrade became the subject of a typical Johnston prank, when he awoke and blinked hard in a double take before it sunk in that his eyebrows had been shaved.
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>Johnston was a very loyal person whose willingness to help others went beyond his job, his sister said.
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>She said the family discovered that an unidentified woman who had been persistently calling her brother's Lindenhurst apartment after the attacks turned out to be an incapacitated neighbor for whom he'd regularly picked up groceries.
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>"He never talked about it," she said.
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