Alan D. Feinberg
When I first signed on to this project, I, of course, Googled the name I was assigned. In images, a nice black and white photo came up. A smiling fireman, with the requisite fireman's mustache, Alan stuck me right away as someone I would have enjoyed knowing. He could be the neighbor down the street that you wave at when you're both heading to your cars on a workday morning, or someone you see in the grocery store, buying hotdogs and all the fixings for the barbeque over the weekend.
I started reading whatever I could find written about him, slowly getting to "know" this everyday guy and the image I had formed at the beginning grew stronger and stronger. A family man, with a marriage that had lasted 23 years at the time of his death, and two children, a son and a daughter, everyone who spoke or wrote about him talked about his devotion to his wife and kids.
He began his career as a firefighter several years into his marriage to Wendy, who worked as a stockbroker at the time. Since firefighting paid less than his previous sales job in the garment industry, he became a "Mr. Mom" to his kids and worked his schedule around taking care of them, as they grew up, available for their sports and school activities. He was able to participate in field trips and coach their soccer and baseball teams. He was also able to teach them life lessons by example. His daughter, who was 18 on 9/11, wrote about her father in an essay that was part of her college application: "My father has taught me the true meaning of a hero," wrote Tara, now 18. "It amazes me how someone can have such an unyielding desire to help others, even when there is a constant risk of the danger involved. Even when my father is not fighting fires, he is altruistic in other ways. If there is an accident on the road, he will always stop to administer first aid and call the police. My father is the first one to run onto the field at a soccer game to make sure the player is not seriously hurt."
He was considered an excellent firefighter, and had reached the rank of assistant battalion chief, responsible for most of the administrative duties concerning the five fire companies that make up Battalion 9. However, time and again, what he seems to be remembered for was his willingness to help anyone who needed it, any time, any place, with enthusiasm and a smile.
On one site, an anonymous tribute caught my eye, and my heart: "Alan was truly a wonderful man. He loved his job as a fireman. He loved helping others. He was a great dad. He always talked about his children. I believe that whomever Alan met in his life, that he made quite an impact on them. I will always remember his smile and his beautiful blue eyes. He touched my life in a way that no other has. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him. I know that Alan died doing what he loved to do. But, it’s still hard to know that he is gone. I thank God that I got to know Alan. I will always thank God that I got to see him for that last time at the jersey shore on Sept. 9, 2001. I looked up from where I was standing and there he was. Standing at the snack bar. Smiling that great smile of his, he will forever be in my memories and in my heart. I miss him so."
To touch the lives of so many by simply being himself, he must have been a remarkable man. He was only 48. His kids, Michael and Tara, were only 15 and 18. On September 11, 2001, I was 48. My kids were 18, 16 and 12. He'd been married 23 years; I'd been married 19 years. We could have been friends. Our children could have been friends. He's gone and I am still here. I vow to never forget that.
Visit the 2,996 website and read more tributes to the heros of 9/11.