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Queens Chronicle

Parents Who Lost FDNY Son Say Grief Will Never Go Away

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Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2002 12:00 am

For Theresa and Patrick Mullan, who lost their firefighter son, Michael, a year ago, the grief will never go away.

“It will never get easy. Some days you think he’s going to bounce in the house with a big smile. But with the first anniversary of September 11th, the reality hits you between the eyes.”

For the Mullans, who have two other adult children, the past year has been filled with both sadness and joy but the loss they feel is palpable.

Mullan, 34, a lifelong resident of Bayside, died while trying to rescue fellow firefighters. He was on the fifth floor of the Marriott Hotel when his unit received the word to evacuate. He then heard a May Day call from other firefighters. His lieutenant told him to wait while he and another man went to rescue the others.

“Michael’s group had found a way out and he told a probationary firefighter to leave the building while he went up to show the other men how to get out.”

No one from that group survived except the probationer.

“It was his destiny. He made that choice to go up and the building came down. We were hopeful that he would be found alive until they recovered his body on October 7th,” Mrs. Mullan said. “‘But we were lucky; it was a miracle that he was found and that he came home to us.”

An eight-year veteran, who worked out of a Chelsea firehouse, Mullan was also a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve at Fort Totten and a registered nurse at Mercy Hospital in Rockville Centre. The Mullans have heard from several of their son’s patients, who said that he was so giving.

“He had a tremendous generosity of spirit. He was a giver and a server and he had a great sense of humor. Michael also had a great love for his family and was an exceptional young man,” Mrs. Mullan said.

She misses most his laughter; his joy of life. “He just had to make you laugh. He brought so much joy into this home.”

The family is expecting the city to rename their block, Jordan Street, to 35th Avenue, Michael Mullan Way either later this month or in October.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” his mother said. “We had originally asked for 32nd Road (near Jordan Street) to be renamed but others asked that it be a bigger tribute. We weren’t expecting this.”

Michael lived his entire life in the house on Jordan Street. After he returned from active duty with the Army, his parents converted the basement for him. “There was never any question that he would move out,” Mrs. Mullan said.

One bright point of the year for the Mullans was a one-week trip to Ireland in August with 53 family members, ranging in age from 1 to 88. “We had masses said in Belfast, Northern Ireland and in Tipperary in the Irish Republic.

“It was a blessed event,” Mrs. Mullan said. “From the moment we stepped foot in Ireland, the sun shone. We were greeted with such hospitality and Fire Departments there welcomed us with gifts.”

The parents said the trip was especially meaningful because Michael was so family-oriented. “It gave me comfort. It touched on Michael and his Irish grandparents, who he loved,” Mrs. Mullan added.

The family was particularly moved while in Northern Ireland when the Protestant family of Jason McGimpsey attended the Catholic mass for Michael.

“Jason was the probie who my son told to get out of the building. He escaped and lived. We were so deeply touched that his family came. It was an act of honor and respect.”

The Mullans had planned to move to New Jersey after Mrs. Mullan retired as a registered nurse in February. But now the family has decided to stay. “Michael was going to buy the house. Now, we want to stay. There is no history for us in Jersey. We can’t walk away from our neighbors, the community or Michael.”

On September 11th, the Mullans will attend mass at church and then go to the Ground Zero program for families of those lost a year ago.

The death of a child is always difficult but because so many people died that day, the Bayside family’s grieving has been particularly public. “It’s true, it was such a big event, so many were lost. But the one good thing was we got so much support and outpouring from the community, our church, Blessed Sacrament, and our neighbors.”

Although this is a particularly sad time for all those who lost family and friends last September 11th, Mrs. Mullan is grateful for the way the city is handling the first anniversary. “They are handling it with such dignity and respect. The people who died deserve that.”

Reflecting on the past year, the grieving mother recalled one of the days she will never forget. “I happened to be watching television at the time they brought up Michael’s body. I didn’t know it was him but I was happy for the family that was getting back their loved one.”

And over the last year there have been times when she asked herself, “did this really happen?” Today, the truth is only too real.

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