Allowed to Stay Back, He Insisted on Helping

September 22, 2001

John Tierney was last seen in the lobby of One World Trade Center. Tierney's shift was ending just as Ladder 9 received the call to head to the financial district, said his cousin, John Schreiner. Tierney, 27, of Staten Island, was told he didn't have to go, but he insisted, even though it meant he'd have to sit atop another firefighter's lap. At the World Trade Center, he again was told he didn't have to go in; again, he insisted. He has not been heard from since.

He attended St. Joseph's by the Sea High School and was graduated from St. John's University in 1997 with a degree in psychology. This was his rookie year as a firefighter; he was graduated from the fire academy only in July. "For the past two years or more, all he could think about, and his only goal, was to be a firefighter," Schreiner said. Tierney loved fishing and camping, "but his passion was the guitar. He'd just started playing a year and a half ago, and he wanted to be really good - he practiced until he had blisters, and he loved Bob Dylan." Patriotic, "he has a picture of George Washington kneeling before he went into battle of Valley Forge, and a picture of Paul Revere."

As a probationary firefighter in Queens, Tierney achieved a bit of immortality: a newspaper photograph caught him holding a hose, spraying down a building. It was his very first fire. "He died a hero, and we know it must have been quick," Schreiner said. "He would have been so proud of what he did."

He is survived by his parents, John and Helen; a brother, Thomas; sisters Mary and Jeanne; two nephews and a niece.

--Mary Voboril (Newsday)


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