Robert O'Connor

Profile Updated: April 15, 2012
Robert O'Connor
Residing In: Hopewell Junction, NY USA
Spouse/Partner: Marge
Occupation: Retired NYFD
Children: Tim & Maureen
Grandchildren: Nick Hennet, our daughter's son; Emily & Claire, our son's daughters.
Military Service: U. S. Navy
Robert O'Connor

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After graduation I served as an electronics technician in the Navy for three years. I was assigned to a repair ship in Newport, Rhode Island. We had two and three destroyers come alongside every two weeks. Our division repaired communications equipment their technicians couldn't fix. Usually, it was only because, as a repair ship, we had access to more replacement parts. I also went to Crypto School and repaired equipment that decoded encrypted messages.

After the Navy I worked in a research lab with General Electric. However, I always wanted to become a fireman. In June 1968 I took the entrance exam to became a fireman in New York City. I was appointed to the Dept. in September of the same year.

After Probie School, I was assigned to Ladder 44 in the South Bronx. Our sister company was 92 Engine. Ladder company members are called truckies. Truck company members are responsible for search and rescue. Engine company members put out the fire. We often swapped tours. So I worked as both and engine man and a truckie. I spent 10 fabulous years assigned to that fire house.

When I first arrived at 44 truck, our apparatus was a hook and ladder with a steering wheel (tiller) in the rear. Later we were assigned a Tower Ladder. Tower Ladders were a new addition to the Department. We were the second truck company in the City to get one. They were a major asset for fighting multiple floors of fire in vacant buildings; a nightly occurrence during that period.

44 Truck and 92 Engine were extremely busy. 92 Engine was busier than us. They responded 7,500 in one year, with a workload relief interchange company taking their place every third night. If they did over 18 runs before midnight, they would also swap assignments on those nights, with a less busy company from Queens.

It was not unusual to us to respond to 2 or 3 major fires in one night; many times with two, three, or more buildings involved. Occupants of those buildings were in great danger; and rescues were very common. The commitment of every firemen to saving lives was shown on 9-11. It created a strong bond between us, that exists to this day. It was a great and exciting time to be a fireman.

New firemen working in the firehouses I was assigned to, still invited all of us retired members to their medal day parties and fire house reunions. They are a fabulous band of brothers.

In 1978 I was promoted to Lieutenant and transferred to the Borough of Manhattan. I was assigned to 47 engine on 113th. Street between Broadway and Amsterdam. After a 6 month probationary period, I was re-assigned to covering lieutenant vacations in firehouses throughout Manhattan. I really enjoyed seeing what it was like to work in all the different areas of Manhattan. I even worked on the fire boats for a month.

I did this for two and a half years; and then got a permanent assignment in 25 truck on 77th. Street between Broadway and Amsterdam. It was easy to get assigned to an engine company; but not so easy to get assigned to a truck company in a busy area. I wanted to work in truck companies, so I could use my 10 years of truck company experience to teach guys how to keep from being killed while searching for people trapped in a fire. So I waited for the right opening.

I worked in 25 truck for 7 months before being promoted to Captain and transferred back to the Bronx. I covered Captain openings in 9 firehouses in the Bronx for a year. I was then assigned to 51 Truck on Eastchester Road. I worked there for 10 years. Then I transferred to 39 Truck on Katonah and 233rd. Street, for an easier work load. I retired after 27 years.

My only regret was I stopped studying for Chief. While I often worked as an Acting Battalion Chief; I always wanted to earn the ranks of Battalion and Deputy Chief. Unfortunately, some of the fireman booed Mayor Koch at a memorial day service. He wanted to get even with us and started looking for fireman living outside the legal limits. I had built a home outside the limits, in a town called Hopewell Junction; and my wife didn't want to move from our home.

Assuming I might have to leave the Fire Department, I stopped studying for promotion, and opened and Electrical, Heating and Air Conditioning business. A year later, the City of New York gave us permission to live outside the legal boundaries; but it was too late. I missed the Chief's exam. It only comes up every 4 years.

I was too discouraged to start studying again. In addition, by that time I was too financially involved in our business to quit; but I didn't retire until years later. We had that business for 18 years. It was all consuming. We closed it down 12 years ago.

As disappointed as I am for failing to make it to Chief, I often wonder if it didn't save my life. 18 Battalion Chiefs were killed in the twin towers. I would have been working in Manhattan again. There is every possibility I would have been one of them.

After closing our business, I sold real estate for 10 years until my wife had a major stroke in Sept. 2010. I now spend my days taking care of her. Her left arm is paralyzed and unusable. She walks; but with difficulty. Its been a long tough recovery with a year and a half of professional PT & OT.

We now go to Helen Hayes Rehab Hospital twice a week to exercise in their heated pool. I've become her PT and OT specialist. I have to keep thanking Our Lord that I'm healthy enough to take care of her.

Well that's the story of my life. Not as impressive as the classmates who became Doctors, Lawyers, and Indian Chiefs; but I wouldn't have traded those years for all the wealth in the world.

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