Copyright 2002 Bergen Record Corporation
The Record (Bergen County, NJ)...02/22/2002


Dana Hannon never forgot his roots. After the Wyckoff native achieved his dream of becoming a professional firefighter with the New York City Fire Department, he kept answering as many alarms as possible for the Wyckoff Volunteer Fire Department, where he got his start fighting fires with his father.

So when Hannon lost his life Sept. 11 while on duty with the FDNY at the World Trade Center, there was never a doubt that the Wyckoff Fire Department would do something to honor his memory.

The only question was, what?

"We thought about naming an event after him, but that didn't seem fitting," said Fire Chief Rick Alnor. "We wanted something everybody could see, something where we could reflect on our thoughts. " The answer, the department recently decided, was to erect a memorial to fallen firefighters.

The department has started a fund-raising drive to cover the costs of a bronze statue of a kneeling fireman, a granite block carving of Hannon's fire gear, and a reflection pond with an eternal flame. Fire officials hope to dedicate the memorial the weekend before the first anniversary of Sept. 11.

The memorial will be built outside Fire Company 1, where Hannon was a fixture from the time his father, Tom, a Wyckoff firefighter for 30 years, brought him to the firehouse on visits as a toddler. His gear still remains in his locker at Company 1, untouched since the last time he responded to a Wyckoff call in early September.

Hannon, 29, is the first Wyckoff firefighter to die in the line of duty. It is believed that he and other members of Engine Company 26 were in the north tower when it fell. His body has not yet been found.

" (Dana's) name will be the first (on the memorial), and hopefully the last," Alnor said.

Known for his generosity, courage, and fun-loving sense of humor, Hannon left an indelible mark on those who knew him, his friends and family said. More than 2,000 people attended his memorial service in December in Wyckoff, where he spent much of his free time with family and friends.

"He could go anywhere and talk to anybody," said Allison Dansen, Hannon's fiancee. "Whether it was someone in their 90s or someone who was just born, he'd feel comfortable talking to them. " Hundreds of letters and cards have arrived nearly non-stop at his family's Wyckoff home since his death five months ago.

"It's hard to imagine going through what we have without the support," said KyleHannon, Dana's sister.

Hannon's mother, Gaye, said her son was devoted to the tight-knit family.

"He was always there for us," Gaye Hannon said. She recalled the time her son suffered burns at a Wyckoff fire. Before receiving treatment at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, he insisted on calling her.

"He didn't want me to worry," she said.

KyleHannon, 26, said her older brother was her protector and teacher. He was the type of brother who, when he visited her at college, left cash in her dresser drawer, knowing she'd refuse to take money from him directly.

He was also the son who rushed home after working a 24-hour shift in Bridgeport, Conn., where he got his first professional firefighter job, to be present for his father's bypass surgery.

Besides family, Hannon's great love was fighting fires. He was a firefighter all his adult life, joining the Wyckoff department upon graduating from Ramapo High School in 1990.

Hannon's interest in firefighting started early, inspired by those visits to the firehouse as a child. He never missed an episode of "Emergency! ", a plastic fire helmet perched atop his head as he watched the fictional firefighters on television. As a teenager, Hannon spent more time at the fire station, washing trucks and lending whatever help he could, biding his time until he was eligible to join the force.

"He had a sparkle in his eye for the fire service," said Alnor, who knew Hannon for 18 years. "It was his dream. He enjoyed being around the trucks and the camaraderie in the department. He always loved it. " Hannon rose to the rank of captain before taking a full-time job in Bridgeport in 1998. A year later, he saved a woman from a burning apartment building in Bridgeport and was awarded a medal of valor.

"To say I'm proud of him goes without saying," his father said.

Hannon's ultimate dream was to join the New York City Fire Department, the "major leagues of firefighting," his father said. He achieved that goal in November 1999.

Throughout his career, Hannon impressed his friends and colleagues with a poise and knowledge of firefighting that belied his age. In the past few years, he traveled the country as an instructor with the national Fire Department Instructors Conference, teaching techniques to young firefighters.

"He studied (firefighting) as much as he could," said Dave Murphy, a Wyckoff fire captain and police officer who was friends with Hannon.

"He knew his stuff, but he wasn't arrogant," Murphy said. "He'd go out of his way to help you. Anytime you had a question or were confused, you could go to him. You knew you were safe in taking his orders. " When he wasn't fighting fires, Hannon could often be found hunting and fishing in Sussex County with his close friend, Dan Kellogg of Wantage, or spending time at home in Suffern, N.Y., with his fiancee.

Hannon proposed to Dansen last summer in Australia; the couple were to be married this November. Dansen said he was thrilled to have recently become a godfather, and enjoyed spending time with her two young nephews, who idolized their future uncle.

"It was the happiest time in my life," Dansen said of the five years she knew Hannon.

Kellogg, a Wyckoff police detective, recalled his friend as someone who "always saw the positive side of things. He always saw the glass as half-full. It was nice to be around a person like that. " Alnor, the fire chief, said the memorial project is helping the men in the department cope with their friend's death.

"It's important people see it," Alnor said of the memorial. "We loved this kid. " Hannon's former co-workers in Bridgeport were also pleased to hear about the memorial. "He was a great guy," said Peter Oliva, a Bridgeport fire lieutenant.

"You would've liked him," Oliva told a reporter. "I know because everyone that met him did. " Those interested in donating to the Wyckoff memorial can send contributions to the Wyckoff Fallen Firefighter Memorial Fund, PO Box 6, Wyckoff, N.J. 07481.

Staff Writer Brian Aberback's e-mail address is aberback(at)northjersey .com