WTC Family Gains Closure on B'Day

By William Murphy
Staff Writer

June 13, 2003, 12:19 AM EDT
On the day that would have been his 49th birthday, a bone fragment from the World Trade Center was identified as that of fire Capt. Brian Hickey, his family said Thursday.

"Brian was so extraordinary and this is just another proof of that," his wife, Donna, said in a telephone interview from the family home in Bethpage. "Of course he would do it on this date."

The official ruling from the medical examiner's office came Wednesday and top Fire Department officials and three of Hickey's colleagues from Rescue 4 in Woodside went to the Hickey home to make the official notification.

"It's the one question you ask yourself every day when you wake up and when you go to bed," Donna Hickey said. "It's definitely a closure. I'm relieved. It's a weight off us, but it's a good weight."

The Fire Department said Thursday that DNA testing had also identified the partial remains of Capt. Vernon Richard of Ladder 7 in Manhattan.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta and other top officials plan to attend Richard's funeral today in Spring Valley, N.Y.

At Hickey's company, Rescue 4 on Queens Boulevard, firefighters were preparing Thursday for another memorial service, this time for the three firefighters who died in the line of duty on Father's Day 2001 at a hardware store fire and explosion in Astoria.

Two of the victims were from Rescue 4; the other from Ladder 163, also in Woodside. Hickey was the commanding officer of Rescue 4 that day and survived, but died 11 weeks later at the trade center.

Sitting around the kitchen table at the firehouse Thursday, the talk switched between the two tragedies. Lt. Tim Kelly, a 23-year veteran, said the DNA identification of Hickey might restore some sense of hope to the families of 1,300 trade center victims whose remains were never found.

"It might be something for them. After all this time, it might give them some hope," Kelly said.

Kelly and other members of Rescue 4 and Engine 292, with which it shares a firehouse, will attend a memorial mass this morning for all their firefighters who have died in the line of duty, including the 9 dead who rode on the Rescue 4 truck on Sept. 11.

On Sunday, they will attend a memorial mass for the Father's Day dead and help unveil a new street sign in Astoria honoring all three.

Firefighter John Gaine, a 14-year veteran, said he still remembers that Father's Day, when Rescue 4 was on the Triboro Bridge on the way to a call in Manhattan. The call was unfounded and the dispatcher had them turn around at the Bronx toll plaza and sent them to the Astoria fire, which they could see from the bridge.

"We were a little bit out of the batting order," Kelly said. Left unsaid, was that if they had been in quarters in Woodside or in Manhattan, they would not have gotten to the scene before the explosion.