A Firefighter, a Teacher And a Good Friend

November 22, 2001

He was a firefighter, a lifeguard and a substitute teacher. He loved them all and was hoping to be able to juggle his time to work at all three. But it was the job he began last May -- that of a firefighter for Ladder 15, Engine 4 at South Street Seaport -- that Richard D. Allen always wanted.

Allen, 31, completed his training last November and joined the fire department in May. A graduate of Archbishop Molloy High School in Kew Gardens, he also got a degree in film from St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights.

"He was a lifeguard at Riis Beach in Rockaway Park during the summer and a substitute teacher at Broad Channel Elementary School in Belle Harbor," his mother, Gail, said. "He felt teaching was the way to go, if he could be free to be a lifeguard as well. And he felt he could do all three with a firefighter's job."

Allen lived in Belle Harbor and was waiting for his shift to end at 9 a.m. on Sept. 11, when the call came in about American Airlines Flight 11 crashing into Tower One. He and his fellow firefighters rushed to the scene. Allen was helping people out of the lobby of Tower One when it collapsed.

"My husband, Richard, is a criminal court officer at 100 Centre Street in Manhattan," his mother said. "He walked over to the Trade Center area later that evening and was told no one from his ladder and engine company there survived."

About 2,000 friends, neighbors and firefighters attended the Nov. 9 memorial for Allen at St. Francis De Sales Church in Belle Harbor.

"His life affected more people than I believed," his mother said. "The letters I got told me he was special to them. He was a good friend and listener and always there when someone needed him."

Allen loved anything to do with the outdoors. He enjoyed walking at night, fishing, surfing, sky diving and, of course, swimming. The eldest of six siblings, he also enjoyed watching movies at night and visiting with his parents, three sisters and two brothers. All live close to each other in Belle Harbor.

In addition to his parents, Allen is survived by sisters Judy Aikes, Lynn Allen and Maggie Allen, and brothers Luke and Matthew.

-- Betty Ommerman (Newsday)