March 11, 2002

Fireman Lived His Dream And Loved Every Minute

You know the man has got the firehouse in his blood when his idea of fun is a course in tying knots.

Twenty-nine-year-old Brian Sweeney of Merrick was nuts about equipment, too, of every kind that firefighters use to cut people out of cars or pull them from the bottom of the river or the top floors of blazing buildings.

"I remember thinking, 'That sounds so boring!'" his big sister, Lynn, said this week. "But he loved it. He was into getting as much knowledge as he could about rescue tools. I don't think there was ever any question about what he wanted to do with his life."

The son of New York City Fire Capt. Edward Sweeney, young Brian had borrowed his father's helmet while still in diapers, and volunteered for the Merrick Fire Department as soon as they let him in. He got a job with a Connecticut fire department in 1996, then jumped ship when his dream of a job on the New York Fire Department came true a couple of months later. Sweeney quickly proved himself, rising to Squad 288 in Queens and then Rescue 1, one of the department's proudest companies, in Manhattan, just six weeks before the World Trade Center attacks. He was working an overtime shift with Squad 288 on Sept. 11.

Always, Sweeney packed his life with adventures, Lynn remembers: snowboarding and skiing at Hunter Mountain, where he was on the ski patrol one year, and mountain biking and scuba diving. He enjoyed every kind of music, which he burned onto CDs, and trips with his steady girlfriend, Melissa Price.

Sweeney's little brother, Matthew, always the more bookish of the two, never had much interest in the fire department until recently, when his brother encouraged him to consider it. Now Matthew Sweeney is going to take the test.

"He went out doing what he loved - he was in the biggest job of all time," his brother said. "How many people can say they are doing their dream job? He rose to the top at it, and God bless him."

-Elizabeth Moore


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