Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering 9.11–John M. Moran


I signed up to participate in a program through the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, which allows them to use my facebook status to remember and honor a victim of 9.11.

The person I will be honoring is John M. Moran.

I didn’t want to honor a name though, I want to honor a person.  So I did some digging to see if I could find out who John Moran was…

John was a New York Fire Department Battalion Chief, Detailed to Special Operations Command, Battalion 49.  He was one of the first responders to the World Trade Center attacks, and is believed to have been killed in the collapse of the South Tower.  His body was never found.

He was 42 in 2001, and was possibly the youngest Battalion Chief in New York at the time.  He lived in Rockaway Beach, NY with his wife and two young sons, and also his mom, who lived in the apartment above him.

John’s younger brother Michael was, and still is, also a member of the NYFD, Ladder 3.  He was not on duty on 9.11, but like so many other brave men and women, showed up anyway.  In a recent interview, Mike gave his account of the day, and tells of his frustration of being made to wait at the firehouse for several hours, all the while not knowing if his brother was alive or dead.

Additionally, Michael gained a little bit of notoriety in October 2001, when he said what we were all thinking at Billy Joel’s televised benefit concert for New York, and invited Osama bin Laden to “kiss my royal Irish ass!”  In fact, Mike Moran seems to have a way with words that I can really respect.  In a eulogy for Capt. Patrick Brown (also killed on 9.11.01), he predicted that the terrorists would not get to meet Allah in the afterlife, there would be no seventy virgins, and instead they would meet one pissed off Fire Capt..

I can get behind that.

What is very clear about Mike, who has been a voice of remembrance for the fallen heroes of 9.11, is that he dearly misses his brother John.  He maintains a memorial for him in Rockaway, on Chief John Moran Way.

I find it’s hard to tell the story of a person without also including a little bit of the stories of the people who love them.  I often tell my kids that whether they like it or not, they are the sum of the people who surround them.  John seems to have a plethora of friends and family surrounding him who have also dedicated themselves to the protection and service of their fellow humans.  He came from a long line of firemen, and even his wife was a flight attendant.  John himself earned a law degree from Fordham University, but chose instead to work for the fire department, and put himself in danger in an effort to help others.

In fact, on Father’s Day in 2001, just a few short months before the WTC attacks, John was injured in an explosion at a hardware store fire that left three other firefighters dead.  So he was no stranger to the risks he took in his job, and was fully aware of them when he geared up that bright September morning.

While it would be easy to just say he was a firefighter, and leave it at that, it would be erroneous to sum up his life as his job, and maybe a little too easy.  John was much more than a fireman.  He was a father who smothered his boys with love, a son who made sure his mother was always taken care of, and a good friend to all who knew him.  It appears that all of his friends considered him so much more than a good friend, they considered him part of their family, and many say they were better people for having known him. 

Coincidentally, John met his wife Kim on September 11, 1990, while standing outside of his firehouse.  “I was stood up on a date,” she recalls. "Some guy just didn't show up. I gave up at about 10:30, changed into some jeans and tennis shoes, and went down to get some pizza for myself and my roommate.  He was standing on the apron of the firehouse, and I just fell in love with him instantly. He's the love of my life.”

John enjoyed kayaking, playing piano and guitar, and singing.  On Saturday, September 8, 2001, he and his cousin, Congressman Joseph Crowley, jumped on stage at a Rockaway block party, and performed “The Star of the County Down,” to the delight of the local audience.

Sunday, September 9th, he was at the beach with his wife and boys.  John had built a wheeled cart to transport his kayak, but on this day he pulled his sons in it instead.  I can imagine them laughing as it bumped across the rocks and sand.  His wife grabbed her camera and snapped a picture, capturing their smiles for eternity.  One last happy memory.

On Monday September 10th, John was back at work.  He pulled a 24 hour shift, and at 7am on September 11th when his shift was done, he decided to hang around his unit’s Roosevelt Island headquarters and shoot the breeze with his friends and co-workers.  When the call came in from the North Tower on that bright, sunny morning, John asked his chief if they needed some help, and suited up before jumping on the truck.

He spoke to his brother Mike while in route to the towers.  Mike told him to be careful, that we were under attack, and John responded by saying he had seen the second plane fly overhead before hitting the South Tower.

After the attacks, John’s wife and sons held out hope that he would return home.  After having survived the hardware store explosion, it was difficult for them to believe that a handful of terrorists could defeat this resilient man.  However, John was never heard from again.  On October 4, 2001, John’s memorial service was held at a church in Queens.  His brother Mike gave the eulogy, and Mayor Giuliani called for a standing ovation for the fire veteran of twenty years. The mayor said that while Moran's two young sons may not fully comprehend all that happened, "The thing I want them to understand for their entire life is that their father is a great man."

I, of course, never knew John Moran, but I wish I could have.  I wish I could shake his hand and thank him for his service, and for putting himself in harm’s way.  More importantly, I wish his sons could have grown up knowing him as well.

Thank you John, Kim, Ryan, and Dylan, for your sacrifice.  I wish it had never been asked of you.  Also, thank you Mike, for your continuing sacrifice.  We owe you all so much, and the debt will never be repaid.




Anonymous said...

I knew John, this was a great tribute to him!!

Julie Rendon said...

Thank you for this. I just signed up for the 2014 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb in San Diego, Ca. I will be climbing in honor of John. I wanted to know more about him and this nailed it. Thank you.

Julie Rendon said...

Thank you for this. I just signed up for the 2014 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb in San Diego, Ca. I will be climbing in honor of John and wanted to know more about him. Thank you.

John Moran said...

This is a really nice tribute to John! Thank hou