Timothy Patrick McSweeney

Timothy Patrick McSweeney
World Trade Center

Everyone's Gentle Giant

Timothy McSweeney was a big man — 6-foot-3 and far from spindly — but sweet as the day is long. "They called him the Big Guy, or the Gentle Giant," said his wife, Debbie. "Everyone was drawn to him."

He spent 14 years as a firefighter with Ladder Company 3 in the East Village, and eventually was in charge of so many things: paying the bills, going to the grocery store, cooking elaborate roast beef dinners for the company.

His best friends were other veteran firefighters from Ladder Company 3, Mrs. McSweeney said, but he also looked out for the new firefighters, the ones who are often awkward and nervous about the job.

He loved being part of a busy firehouse. He won six awards for heroism, but hardly anyone knew it, said his father, Dennis, a retired battalion chief. "He didn't brag about it," he said.

And he raced back to Staten Island at the end of every shift to be with his children: Dennis, 4, Margaret, who will be 2 at the end of the month, and Patrick, who is not quite 1.

When his wife got home from work, there they would be: Firefighter McSweeney, 37, in his brown armchair with one child perched on his shoulder, another cradled in the crook of his arm, the third nestled on his lap.

"Like one great big person," Mrs. McSweeney said.

Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 18, 2001.

TIMOTHY PATRICK MCSWEENEY, 37, of New York, was a framing carpenter before joining the fire department in 1987. "Dollarwise you could do better, but guys don't do it for the monetary value," said McSweeney's father, Dennis, a retired fire department battalion chief. "It's the job satisfaction. They are happy doing what they are doing." The younger McSweeney, like many firefighters, was a top-notch cook. "He enjoyed being home with the kids," said his wife, Debra. "He would make a good meal; we just enjoyed being together."

Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press

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