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John 'Jack' Fanning, 54, FDNY Battalion Chief
A decorated firefighter, anti-terrorism expert and head of the New York City Fire Department's Hazardous Materials Operations Unit, Battalion Chief John "Jack" Fanning spent more than 30 years responding to blazes, emergencies and disasters. When a truck bomb exploded at the World Trade Center in 1993, the West Hempstead resident was among the first firefighters to respond. In 1995, he and other members of New York City's Urban Search and Rescue Team were deployed to Oklahoma City after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building and to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Marilyn. He also represented the city on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Incident Support Team at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Fanning was supervising the first firefighters responding to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center when family members say they believe he died while trying to save others inside the towers. He was 54. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Jackson Heights, Queens, Fanning graduated from Mater Christi High School in Astoria and was attending St. John's University in 1969 when he decided to leave college to follow his father into firefighting. While serving in the hazardous materials unit, Fanning helped establish the fire department's emergency response to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. He was promoted to battalion chief in 1994. Recognized as a national expert on terrorism, he testified about the status of domestic readiness in May before the U.S. Senate subcommittee on commerce, justice, state and the judiciary. He also was a member of Harvard University School of Government's panel on terrorism. "He was a loving husband, a loving father and a very humble person," said his wife of 15 years, Maureen McDermott-Fanning, a registered nurse and mother of the couple's two sons, Sean, 13, and Patrick, 5. "In spite of his medals and credentials, he was just a regular guy." Both Sean and Patrick have autism. About two weeks before the Sept. 11 disaster, McDermott-Fanning said her husband discussed establishing a trust to build a residential home on Long Island for autistic children. Family members plan to complete that mission in his memory, she said. Besides his wife and sons, Fanning is survived by his parents, John and Dorothy Fanning of Port Jefferson; two brothers, Bob of Port Jefferson and Dennis of Coram; a sister, Bonnie Quilty of Port Jefferson; and three children from a previous marriage, Ryan of Port Jefferson, Jeremy of Stony Brook and Jacqueline of Rocky Point. Visiting hours are tomorrow from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at Fairchild Sons Funeral Home in Garden City. A memorial Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Thomas the Apostle in West Hempstead. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Jack Fanning Memorial Trust in care of James Herbst, 307 Bordeaux Lane, Cary, N.C. 27511.