i didn’t know tommy. we grew up in different neighborhoods. i lived near davy crockett elementary in san angelo. tommy grew up in the bronx. but i read about him today.
when he was 7 years old, he tried to stomp out a fire in his neighborhood, but his pants caught fire. second- and third-degree burns. naturally, he became a firefighter.
he came from a family of 11. his grandfather, father and two brothers were all police officers. “he was very different from the rest of us,” his oldest brother said. “while the rest of us are kind of quiet, tom was very loquacious and extremely generous with his time, money and advice.” i’m not sure if this was a compliment.
he was an enthsiastic firehouse chef who knew all the best recipes because they were his own, according to a story in the new york times.
he had 18-month-old twin boys who he showed off one evening at an annual softball game the firefighters held every year. a lifetime of watching the little guys grow up was ahead of him. just another sept. 10.
the next morning, his engine team responded to a call. while waiting at a stop light, they heard an explosion. they looked up and saw a large hole in the north tower of the World Trade Center. engine 6 was one of the first units to arrive.
tommy, along with his company, headed up the stairs of the North Tower. because that’s what firefighters do. only one of them came back down. tommy did not.
it’s easy to let things fade. as the years go by, you forget those images of people jumping from the buildings to their deaths. how horrible that day was. how firefighters and police officers went up those stairs to risk their lives in the hopes of saving others. over the years, it just becomes numbers again.
until you pick up your race bib and Thomas O’Hagan, Lieutenant, FDNY Battalion 4 is written across the bottom.
Tommy would have been 58 now, just a couple of years younger than me. he’ll be my running partner sunday. i couldn’t be prouder.
thank you, corpus christi police foundation, for the wake up call. and thank you, tommy. i’ll never forget. promise.