9-11-09Eight years ago today, one of the most beloved men in New York, Patrick J. Brown, died at the World Trade Center. Captain Brown was the most decorated member of that city's fire department.. He died trying to rescue badly burned civilians.
Here is what one of his men read at his funeral:
Capt. Patrick Brown
by FF Mike Moran
On the morning of Sept. 11th, enemies of the United States attacked the World Trade Center. Their followers rejoiced, they even danced in the streets. They thought they had achieved success. But they did not.
They made the mistake on the morning of Sept. 11th, when all they saw when they looked at the WTC was 2 buildings. What they failed to see was the nation that stood behind them. What they failed to understand was the terrible resolve they had awakened.
And if there is justice in the afterlife, and I believe there is…..
Those fanatics who crashed those planes into the WTC did NOT get to meet Allah......... They did NOT get 70 virgins. Instead, they met Patrick J. Brown. And they discovered they messed with the wrong Marine.
Because you don’t mess with 3 Truck. You don’t mess with Patty Brown’s guys. Not when he is working.
We used to joke around in 3 Truck and tell the officers that they were not ‘in charge’---they were just responsible. Well, we never, even whispered that about Patty, because we all knew he was in charge. And not because he yelled. But because he spoke softly. He was humble. He led by example.
Late at night you could usually find him in the kitchen talking with the guys. He liked to shoot the breeze with the men. It is a testament to his character that with all the famous people he knew; all the mayors that pinned medals on his chest. All the big chiefs that were relieved when they saw his familiar visage enter the fire ground.
That Patty liked nothing better than hanging out with the men. Because Patty never stopped being a fireman. He only cared if you showed enthusiasm, if you were willing to learn. He didn’t care how many medals you had on your chest or how many bars you had on your collar. He only cared about the content of your character.
Guys that had had problems in other houses wanted to come to Ladder 3, not because the Capt. was soft---but because he was strong. He didn’t pre-judge you, he let you prove yourself to him and the great thing about him was---you didn’t want to let him down. We were becoming the Oakland Raiders of the Fire Dept.
And I will tell you this---we loved having him. He was not only a great storyteller; a true raconteur; he was also a great listener. He took tremendous interest in the guys’ lives and well-being. The funny thing is---most of us never realized that in those informal chats that the Capt. was teaching us. That is what he was doing. He was teaching us the Fire Dept. Way, the 3 Truck Way, and most importantly the Patty Brown Way. He was respected and loved because he lived his life so well.
I am reminded of the movie Braveheart when the men saw William Wallace for the first time. It wasn’t much different than when the Capt. First walked through the doors of 3 Truck. It was whispered, "This can’t be the man they call Patty Brown, he is not big enough. Patty Brown is 8 feet tall." Well, he wasn’t that big, but his heart was. That is the burden of being a legend. One that Patty carried with tremendous grace and humility.
To hear the stories and legend of Capt. Brown was to be inspired. But to actually meet the man, to be led by him, to follow him down that long, dark, smoky hallway was to be blessed. Because Patty’s strength, courage, and experience were a tremendous comfort in tough times.
So, I can only imagine that is how it was on those final moments of Sept. 11th. Capt. Brown leading his men. Helping those 30 to 40 severely burned people down those dark stairs.
Patty giving ‘Maydays’ that saved many other firemen’s lives. But he and his men refusing to leave those people behind. I can see the guys from 3 Truck---turning one last time to Patty and being comforted by a nod of his head, a shy smile. "Don’t worry fellas, we’ll take care of it." And they were inspired.
So this marks the 12th, and fina funeral for the men of Ladder 3. And it is fitting that Patty go last. The last man out.
Another one: Yesterday my cousin Tim Meier, a Jesuit priest, celebrated his 30th anniversary of sobriety. As some of you know, Tim became a U..S. Army chaplain during his 50th year on earth.. He just came back from Iraq, where he won a Bronze Star. Now he is off to Kosovo as part of a peacekeeping force.
Tim and Paddy did not know each other. But I can guarantee that they would have loved one another.