John Patrick Tierney was born and raised in Staten Island, New York. He attended local schools St. Charles Catholic Elementary School, St. Joseph by the Sea Catholic High School. He graduated from St. John’s Catholic University in Staten Island in 1997 with a degree in psychology.
Johnny was a new firefighter, with only 8 months on the job. He graduated from the academy in July 2001, and his new assignment with Ladder Company 9 in Manhattan began only six weeks before the tragedy. His mother said that he wanted to be assigned to Manhattan “to be where it’s busy and he could learn the job and really get out there.”
While still on probationary status, Johnny had his five minutes of fame. He was pictured in a newspaper fighting a fire in Queens. This was Johnny’s first fire. (If anyone has this picture, please email me so that I can post it. I’ve searched high and low, but have been unable to track it down.)
On September 11, Johnny was finishing a night shift with Engine 33, that was to end at 9:00 a.m. He was supposed to go home, but was so dedicated to his job that he stayed to help. He jumped onto a fire truck that was so crowded as it headed toward the World Trade Center, he had to sit on another firefighter’s lap.
Johnny’s mother prayed that morning he was headed home to Staten Island. But it was not to be. Always willing to help, he had to join his fellow firefighters going to the disaster site.
When Johnny arrived at the World Trade Center, he was told that he didn’t have to go in, but he insisted that he wanted to help. His team entered North Tower, 1 World Trade Center and climbed to the 30th floor when a call to evacuate the building came.
Johnny was last seen in the lobby of North tower. Five members of the team made it out safely, while 3 (including Johnny) were never seen again. Johnny is one of 343 missing firefighters. Of the 343 firefighters lost in the tragedy, 60 of them (including Johnny) were off-duty at the time.
His cousin, John Schreiner, said “For the past two years or more, all he could think about, and his only goal, was to be a firefighter.” His family describes him as happy with his life. His hobbies included fishing, camping, and playing the guitar. His favorite music included Bob Dylan and the Beatles.
Johnny was age 27 at the time of his death. He is survived by his mother, Helen, his father, John, his brother, Thomas, his sisters, Mary and Jeannie, his nephews, Thomas and James, and his niece, Margaret.
The family was overwhelmed by the kindness of Johnny’s fellow firefighters, who invited them to see the firehouse where he worked.
In the words of Johnny’s mom:
It’s so hard to believe that a year has gone by since we last saw you. It seems like it was just the other day that you were with us and we miss you more than words can say. Life is difficult for us sometimes and we will never be the same without you. We have very sad moments because you were snatched away from us at a very young age.However, no one can take away our love for you and all the memories we have of the happy times you brought to our lives…
We remember how hard you worked to get on the Fire Department. When we went to your graduation last July we were so proud of you because you were happy at your new job. A fellow firefighter told us you were the best probie he ever met.
We know you’re telling us to smile more, Johnny. It’s not easy right now but I promise you, we will. Your memory is always with us now and forever.
My heart is heavy as I vividly recall how I felt on September 11, 2001. There are no words to express my gratitude to Johnny and my deep sympathy for his family and friends.
Thank you to the following sources for providing information for this tribute: cnn.com, New York Times, Legacy.com, Newsday.com, Staten Island Advance, and Bravest Memorial.
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