Army Marine Corp Navy Air Force Coast Guard Police Firefighters Citizen Heroes

Lieutenant Kenneth J. Phelan, Sr.

Engine 16, Ladder 7, FDNY

Lieutenant Phelan's Act of Heroism

Over 400 first responders lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Heroically performing their sworn duty, these firefighters, members of the NYPD and PAPD, and numerous other rescue workers will forever be remembered for their sacrifice.

My Hero

From an early age, Kenny Phelan looked out for other people. He took the children in the neighborhood no one else wanted to coach and turned them into a basketball team.

"He said, `Well, now these kids have somewhere to play,' " said his younger brother, Lenard. When the two of them became police officers in Manhattan, Kenny would drive by to see how Lenny, on foot patrol, was doing.

Their father, a retired firefighter, was proud when his sons joined the Fire Department. Kenny Phelan, who was 41, asked for his father's old firehouse, Engine Company 217 in Brooklyn, when he was promoted to lieutenant. Off duty, he led his four children — Kimberly, Erin, Danny and Kenny — on family outings to Walt Disney World and taught them sports. Now one of his sons plays third base and is known as "the Vacuum." Nothing gets past him.

Lieutenant Phelan and his wife, Patty, met as teenagers. Neither of them ever dated anyone else, and he was never without his wedding ring, which she still hopes will turn up. For their first date, he asked her to a Mets game. On the way there, she lost a contact lens. An old lady came out of her house, found it, and invited them in for Cokes. They made it to the game, and the Mets won. "I guess I won, too," Mrs. Phelan said. "People looked at us and it was always Kenny and Patty. I hope my children will have that, and I hope whoever didn't have that will have it in the future, because life is empty without it."

Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on August 11, 2002.
Information courtesy of the Remember 9/11/2001 memorial site on


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