Firefighter Thomas McCann
Battalion 8

Firefighter Thomas McCann

Missing since 9-11

Anne McCann and her husband, Thomas, spent their honeymoon in Hawaii nearly 20 years ago.

This week, McCann will sprinkle her husband's ashes at the Wailea Golf Course on Maui, where he played a round of golf as a newlywed.

Thomas J. McCann, 46, a midtown Manhattan firefighte, died during the Sept. 11 rescue effort. "He spent 221/2 years on the job," McCann said. "He was hoping to retire in January."

McCann and her children, Sean and Courtney, were among the first 600 New Yorkers who accepted Gov. Ben Cayetano's invitation to spend a week in Hawaii, with a free flight from Hawaiian Airlines and rooms donated by 13 hotels. Another 600 visitors will travel to Hawaii through 2002.

This week's visitors represent New York Fire and Police departments, the New York Port Authority and the Office of Emergency Management. Most are spouses and family members of rescue workers lost during the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.

As she collected her baggage yesterday at Honolulu Airport, McCann said she and her children plan to rent a car and tour Oahu on their own, as well as fly to Maui, revisiting the places she and her husband discovered together as newlyweds. "We're staying in the same hotels," the Hilton Hawaiian Village and the Hyatt Regency in Maui, she said.

McCann said the flight was wonderful. "We were treated like first class, no matter where you sat." The guests were greeted with red, white and blue water streamers from the Hickam Fire Department as the plane taxied into the terminal, and Hawaiian Airlines employees greeted them with Hawaiian music, hula and flower lei.

Aside from a welcome reception last night and a farewell luau on Sunday, the visitors will be left to themselves for a week of rest and relaxation, although many local businesses and community members have offered gifts, free services and discounted rates

"I'm going to stick my feet in the Pacific Ocean," New York City firefighter Bob Jackson said. He plans to kayak and take free surfing lessons.

Jackson's role during the trip includes helping families during their vacation. "We'll be making sandcastles and taking care of children," he said.

Wearing a "Engine 54 Ladder 4" T-shirt, Jackson said the weather in New York was mild, but the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center made it evident that the holiday season had arrived. However, he added: "It's also a sad time in our firehouse. We lost 15 brothers."

Making up one of the biggest groups of visitors were the 16 family members of New York firefighter Raymond York. York died when the second of the World Trade Center towers collapsed, and his was one of the first bodies recovered.

"Braver than brave," said his brother, Ritchie. "He was a 20-year veteran that was supposed to retire this past October."

York's sister Elizabeth said Raymond had once visited Hawaii and would often tell family members what they should do and see if they ever took a trip themselves. York says in a sense, the trip enables them to fulfill their brother's wishes.

"We're just so overwhelmed ... so grateful," said Elizabeth York. "It's so difficult. He was such a big part of our lives."

Other grieving family members were not ready to take a vacation. Annmarie Johnson, 33, said she came in place of her sister, whose firefighter husband died in the rescue effort. "She didn't want to come without him," Johnson said.

New York Fire Chief Joseph Pfeifer, the highest-ranking official among yesterday's visitors, said the trip to Hawaii was very important to those who had lost family members, friends and colleagues. "It means a chance to get away and be with immediate family," he said.

For many, Pfeifer said, "Sept. 11 continued on and on, and this is a new beginning."

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The New York Foundation For The Arts
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Courtney's Tribute