Saturday, September 11, 2010
Ray Downey was the Fire Department of New York's Chief of Special Operations and a passionate New York Rangers fan and founding member of the FDNY Hockey Team.
He served with the United States Marine Corps and then became a member of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) on April 7, 1962, beginning a 39-year career. In August of 2001, Chief Downey was put in charge of Special Operations Command, a team of specialists who aid regular firefighters with unique or highly critical situations, which include Hazardous Materials, Marine Units, Rescue Companies (experienced units with specialized tools and equipment) and Squads, often regarded as mini Rescue Companies who also have specialized tools and equipment. Downey was also promoted to Deputy Chief at the time.
His career was built on numerous successful rescues which made him the most decorated man in the history of the FDNY. He received five medals for valor and 16 unit citations as well as the 1995 Administration Medal.
Additionally, Chief Downey was a task force leader for the New York City Urban Search and Rescue Team as well as the National Disasters Team, who responded to both the Oklahoma City and Atlanta Olympics bombings. He was also a team leader in response to Hurricanes Hugo, Andres, Fran, Marilyn and Opal, Chief of Rescue Operations at the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, all of which contributed to his being called "a charismatic national legend in rescue circles" and he was credited with creating the modern search-and-rescue system adopted by FEMA and fire departments worldwide while pioneering a national network of eight search and rescue teams under FEMA.
He also made frequent trips to Washington D.C. while serving on a congressional panel on domestic terrorism and it's prevention.
All of this led to Downey commanding rescue operations at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 following the terrorist attacks earlier that morning when hijacked jetliners were crashed into each of the twin towers.
His unit was called in immediately after the first impact at #2 World Trade Center and he was leading the rescue operations which helped save thousands of lives when the second of the towers collapsed, costing him his life.
He left behind his wife Rosalie and five children, two of whom, Joe and Chuck, are now firemen.
It would take eight months after 9/11 for his remains to be identified through DNA testing before Chief Downey was then laid to rest on May 20, 2002.
When once asked asked why he searched so long for remains of those presumed dead, he cited the families of those left behind.
FDNY team tryouts begin on September 30th, 2010. Tryouts are from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm and every Thursday in October from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. Tryouts will take place at the "Aviator"hockey rink at Floyd Bennett Field Brooklyn N. Y. Any questions should be directed to Bill Kammerer at 516-897-0449.
The Rescue Company, written by Chief Ray Downey, a how-to manual on rescue operations for firefighters in both paperback and hardcover, as well as his instructional video on collapse rescues are available below.
The Last Men Out, written by Ray Downey's nephew Tom Downey, is about Rescue 2, the firehouse Ray Downey commanded for fourteen years.