Thomas Hannafin was a high school and college basketball star on Staten Island. When he followed his eldest brother, Kevin, into the Fire Department, he joined Ladder Company 5 in Greenwich Village. The captain there, John Drennan, a football coach on Staten Island, was building the firehouse into an athletic powerhouse, Kevin said.
Then Captain Drennan and two others in the company died from injuries in a 1994 fire. "Being so young on the job, it affected him deeply," Kevin, a member of another company in Brooklyn, said of his brother. On Friday, Kevin was part of a search team, including members of Ladder 5, that found the bodies of Thomas, 36, and four other members of his group in the mound of trade center rubble.
Kevin carried his brother's helmet out of the wreckage. "It was the proudest moment of my life," he said.
"It means a lot for firefighters, in firefighter tradition, that members of their company carry them out. That day, I was part of that company."
MORE ABOUT THOMAS HANNAFIN
As New York City firefighter Kevin Hannafin, 50, made his way down out of the rubble of the World Trade Center, he carried his younger brother's fire helmet. Members of a search team working with Hannafin to comb the ruins of the north tower had just discovered the remains of five firefighters, including Thomas P. Hannafin, 36, of Westerleigh in Staten Island.
"I carried my brother's helmet down from the top of the heap--the pile, as they call it. At the end of it I was met by a chaplain. They wanted to take my brother's helmet from me. But there was no way I was going to give it up."
Thomas Hannafin, a 10-year veteran of the department, worked for the city's Ladder 5 company.
When the World Trade Center was attacked, Kevin Hannafin was in Florida for a friend's wedding. When he turned on the television that Tuesday morning, he knew that his brother's company would be one of the first on the scene.
Hannafin drove 18 hours straight back to New York.By the next morning, he was in the rubble.
At about 1 p.m. Friday, in a staircase in the ruins of the north tower, searchers found the remains of five firefighters. Among them was Tommy Hannafin--a man who had stood 6-foot-3 and who, once, long ago, had led his Staten Island college basketball team to a city championship, earning the nickname "Floor General" and the mantle of local hero.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the friends & family of Thomas P. Hannafin. His memory will live on in all the lives that he has touched, including mine. God Bless you always.