Henry McDonald: Firefighter

Chief Henry McDonald at a fire scene with First Deputy Commissioner Lynn Tierney.

By Irish America Staff
April / May 2002

Henry McDonald, a retired battalion chief, spent his last six years with the Fire Department as executive officer (assistant) to First Deputy Commissioner Bill Feehan, He had retired nine months before September 11th and on that day was scheduled to meet Feehan for lunch. The lunch never happened.

On September 11th, McDonald saw the attack on the WTC on TV. Regardless of his retired status, he went straight to the World Trade Center. He arrived just after the second tower had fallen. He helped establish a new command post on West and Vesey Streets to replace the one that had been lost in the collapse of the towers. He helped recover his friend Bill Feehan’s body and accompanied him to the morgue.

Over the next couple of months, McDonald stayed on with the Fire Department in a voluntary capacity in their time of need. “Besides Search and Rescue, the department had to function for the rest of the city. I spoke to the Fire Commissioner and stayed on working with the First Deputy Officer, Mike Regan, until Christmas, helping in the administration of the department.” For weeks McDonald went down to Ground Zero on a regular basis to help look for the body of the son of his close friend, Dennis O’Berg.

In his time with the FDNY, McDonald was awarded the Department’s Medal of Valor, and the Brooklyn Citizens’ Medal, for a rescue he made while working at Ladder 14 in Brooklyn. He has a daughter and three sons, one of whom is also a firefighter. His brother, Tom McDonald, is an assistant commissioner with the Fire Department. ♦

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