Firefighter a Warmhearted, Popular Man

December 27, 2001

When Natalie Moriarty was growing up, her big brother, Thomas Joseph McCann, was always looking out for her.

"As a teenager, he was always very protective of me," she said. "If he caught me doing something wrong with my friends, he would send me straight home. He always tried to make sure I did the right thing. All the time."

Moriarty called her brother "a big, warmhearted, loving kind of guy," who was popular with everyone he met in his Woodside neighborhood. "He's always had so many friends," she said. "I can't think of anyone who didn't like Tommy."

Ray Curatolo, who grew up with McCann in the same Woodside apartment building, chose him as his best man, and vice versa. "There was no doubt in my mind about who my best man should be," Curatolo said. He said that he, too, saw McCann as an older brother: "A security blanket," Curatolo said. "The thing I'll always remember about his wedding and my wedding is that Tom made me feel comfortable around him. I never had to worry about anything when he was around me. He was the one to make sure I was OK on his wedding day."

A firefighter with Division 3 Battalion 8 in midtown Manhattan and a recently appointed trustee of Exhibition Employees Union Local 829 in Manhattan, McCann, 46, a father of two, is presumed dead in the terrorist attacks. He and his older brother, George, played golf three days before, George McCann said.

An avid golfer, George McCann said his younger brother was always great competition on the links. "He loved playing golf, and it was certainly a passion for him," he said.

Moriarty said she was fortunate to play a few rounds of golf with her brother, too. He always offered to lend a helping hand, but never forced his help on her, she said. "He would never tell you what I was doing wrong unless I asked," she said. "And if I asked, he was a great instructor."

But perhaps McCann's favorite role to play on the greens was to caddy for his 13-year-old son, Sean. "His favorite golf partner was his son," said McCann's wife, Anne. "They spent a lot of time playing golf together."

McCann split himself between two jobs: a firefighter and the "right-hand man" for Local 829's president, Jay McNamee. "He loved being a part of 829," his wife said. "He started working with them as a stagehand and rose through the ranks very quickly," his wife said.

A "big man," McCann would sometimes be responsible for driving exotic sports cars to auto shows in Manhattan, George McCann said. "He would joke about how he'd be afraid that he could get in the cars, but might not be able to get out."

As a firefighter, McCann offered the New York Fire Department a cool head and plenty of experience, said Division 3 Battalion 8 Chief Jerry Koziak. McCann insisted on working in the same "grueling midtown" firehouse throughout his career because he "enjoyed the midtown madness," Koziak said. But the grind of the midtown beat never withered McCann's spirits. "He was a very laid-back individual," Koziak said. "He was always a jovial guy and a lot of fun to work with. He was a credit."

Curatolo said his friend's interest in and concern for people were always genuine. "He loved people and cared so much."

Anne McCann sees her husband in both of her children. She sees his athletic prowess in her 16-year-old daughter, Courtney, whenever she does a handspring, and in Sean when he's putting. "They're both great athletes, and I know they didn't inherit it from me," she said between chuckles.

But her holiday spirits were dampened by her loss. "She's been struggling with two children who are trying to figure out how to grow up without Dad being there," George McCann said. "There are no easy words to describe what everyone's going through."

-- Nick Iyer (Newsday)