James Gray, 34, FDNY
His job was his passion Doting dad made time for bike excursions and hunting seashells with his 2 daughters Date of Death 9/11/2001 By Frank Donnelly Advance staff writer Thursday, 10/25/2001 James Gray so wanted to follow in his father's footsteps that he walked away from a secure job he had enjoyed for six years. In October 1996, the Rosebank resident eagerly exchanged his city bus driver's uniform for a firefighter's bunker gear. It was his dream come true. "He was very excited," said his wife, the former Jean Marie Ferris. "He wanted the action." >From the smallest kitchen fire to a raging multi-story blaze, the 34-year-old could be counted on to lead the charge to search for survivors. It was no different on Sept. 11, when Mr. Gray and his colleagues from Ladder Co. 20 in Manhattan raced into a burning Tower 1 at the World Trade Center, moments after a hijacked jetliner slammed into it. "He was like a little kid going in and being heroic and not looking for attention," Mrs. Gray said of her husband, who is among those missing in the attack. "He loved his job as much as he loved us. That was his passion." But days off and holidays were reserved for bicycle excursions with his two daughters, Colleen, 8, and Caitlin, 6, shell collecting on the beach at Wolfe's Pond Park, and jaunts in his uncle Hank Grande's boat. "He would do anything for us," Mrs. Gray said. "Instead of getting things for his car, he'd take his kids to the park to ride their bikes." A doting father and devoted husband, Mr. Gray never forgot a birthday, anniversary or special occasion. He gave both Colleen and Caitlin keepsakes when the older girl recently received her first Holy Communion. Mrs. Gray said she last spoke with her husband at 7:30 on the morning of the attack. He was working overtime and called to wish his girls a good day in school. He told his wife he would call back later. Mrs. Gray never again heard from her husband, who was last seen on the 35th floor of Tower 1. "My children will miss their daddy, and I miss my loving husband," she said. "His memory will live on and never be forgotten. He was a hero." Born in Jackson, N.J., Mr. Gray moved to Dongan Hills in the late 1970s. He relocated to Rosebank in 1992, a year after his marriage. Mr. Gray was a graduate of New Dorp High School and attended the College of the Desert in Palm Desert, Calif. After his stint as a bus driver for New York City Transit, he joined the Fire Department in 1996. His father, Patrick, is a retired Fire Department lieutenant, who had been assigned to Ladder Co. 9 in Manhattan. "His father was very proud of him when he passed the test," said Mrs. Gray. Initially assigned to Ladder 20, Mr. Gray rotated to Engine Co. 283 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn and to Engine Co. 246/Ladder Co. 169 in Coney Island before returning to Ladder 20. He reveled in the camaraderie at the firehouse on Lafayette Street, where members call themselves "SoHo Trucking" and their territory "Hell's Hundred Acres," Mrs. Gray said. Her husband had been studying for the lieutenant's test prior to the terrorist attack. A sports enthusiast, Mr. Gray rooted for the Yankees, Rangers and Giants. He also enjoyed fishing, crabbing, playing softball and football, and spending time with his daughters. Collecting miniature lighthouses and working on older muscle cars were favorite hobbies. He was a member of the Fire Department's Emerald Society and the Knights of Columbus. Throughout the years, Mr. Gray maintained a close relationship with his father, who had coached several of his sons' youth sports teams. More recently, the two fished and attended Yankee games. Mr. Gray was a parishioner of St. Joseph's R.C. Church, Rosebank. In addition to his wife, Jean Marie; his two daughters, Colleen and Caitlin, and his father, Patrick, surviving are his mother, Doreen Gray; a sister, Susanne Auletta; his maternal grandparents, Jane and Peter Luva; his paternal grandfather, Patrick Gray Sr.; several in-laws, and four nieces. A memorial mass is scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m. in St. Joseph's Church. The Richmond Funeral Home, Grant City, is handling the arrangements.