When he was 18 months old, Brian E. Sweeney wore his father's fire hat in a family picture. His parents said it probably wasn't much longer before he decided to follow his father and join the New York Fire Department. "I don't remember it ever being a question," said his mother, Mary Ann.
Some 20 years later, he began going to work with his father, Edward, who was a commander at Engine Company 301 in Hollis, Queens, until he retired in 1993. "He really seemed to enjoy it," Edward Sweeney said. "He asked a lot of the right questions. He was very interested in the job."
Two years after his father retired, Brian Sweeney took a job in Connecticut with the Waterbury Fire Department, and began training. But Firefighter Sweeney, of Merrick, N.Y., left that job when he learned that he had been accepted into the New York Fire Department. For the next six years, he worked at four fire companies in three boroughs and started a romance with Melissa Price, also of Merrick.
During those years he studied the specialty of rescue, and on Aug. 1, 2001, he was assigned to Rescue Company 1 in West Midtown Manhattan. He was 29, one of the company's youngest firefighters. "It was a dream come true for him," Mrs. Sweeney said. "He loved rescue work. The more dangerous, the more exciting, the more challenging — that's what he loved to do."
Last Sept. 11 was his day off, but Firefighter Sweeney worked overtime at his former firehouse in Maspeth, Queens.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on August 25, 2002.