A Solid Rock Who Guided His Family

December 26, 2001

He never knew his grandfather, a fire department battalion chief who died the year he was born.

But Thomas P. Holohan of Engine Co. 6 grew up in Little Neck hearing his mother and grandmother repeat Chief Martin Sheridan's stories about his Hell's Kitchen childhood in the days when horses still pulled fire engines, or the lucky Saturday in 1945 when an Army B-25 crashed into the Empire State Building.

Lucky, because the weekend left the building nearly empty and just 14 people died. Sheridan had been there and taken pictures to show what a plane can do to a skyscraper.

When Holohan's extended family gathered at his mother's home in Little Neck for Christmas, they turned their minds to all the wonderful things Sept. 11 cannot take from them.

"We just want to be together," said his mother, Iris Holohan. "I have five children - I still have five - one just isn't with me."

The firefighter's wife, Colleen, is giving a Maltese Cross pendant with his badge number to each of their children: Thomas P. III, 7; Caitlyn, 5, and Liam, 1. And she is giving them an angel to hang on the tree at their home in Chester, N.Y., "because that's who their daddy is."

Holohan, 36, was a quiet man, his mother said, one of those people who showed their intense feelings through steady action. He was a rock for his four siblings, the one they turned to for guidance.

"My son's famous saying that we always laughed at is, 'There's two ways to do things, the easy way and the right way - guess which way we're going to do it?'" said his mother, who leaned on him when her husband died nine years ago.

"How many parents can say they learned from their children? He taught me to face things."

-- Elizabeth Moore (Newsday)