At two years old James Rand was too young to understand what was about to unfold in his household on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. But his family did.
“I was watching at work as planes flew into the World Trade Center” remarked Deb Rand, mother of James, more commonly known as “Jimmy.” She called her husband and told him to go to his mother Maryanne’s house, as she was there alone.
Deb’s husband, also named Jimmy, rushed to his mother’s house where they watched in horror as the two World Trade Center towers, one by one, collapsed into columns of dust and debris that sent shock waves around the world. “When I saw the second tower fall, I knew my son Adam was in that tower,” said Maryanne, grandmother of little Jimmy. She called it simply a “mother’s intuition.”
That intuition was profound, as her son Adam, brother to Jimmy and uncle of little “Jimmy,” had rushed to the towers in a blaze of sirens from his job as firefighter at firehouse station 288 in Maspeth, Queens, and ascended a staircase on Tower Two on the way up to save people when the tower collapsed. Commanding the fire truck that morning was chief Ronnie Geis of the Merrick Fire Department, who also died in the collapse.
The 16 years of “little” Jimmy Rand’s life since that day were the ultimate preparation for his induction into the fire department by Bellmore Fire Chief Thomas Stroeger on September 25 as a “probie,” which for Jimmy is the first formal step in following in his uncle’s footsteps to become a full-fledged firefighter.
“Having a young firefighter such as Jimmy will be an asset to the fire department,” said Chief Stroeger. “It was an honor to swear Jimmy in as it was an honor to have known Adam,” Chief Stroeger continued. He called Adam an “integral member of the fire department” because he trained all the new probies and firefighters on a variety of firefighting techniques.
Interior Class A firefighter Corey Mumolo told Your NewsMag it will be “pretty cool” to work with Jimmy, because of the family history and because Jimmy will also be part of Number 7 fire truck, which is Mumolo’s truck and was Adam’s fire truck.
“I don’t remember anything of that day [9-11] because I was too young,” Jimmy told Your NewsMag. What Jimmy does remember, however, is the way in which his uncle became the constant topic of nearly all conversations around him, of how the members of the Bellmore Fire Department came to embrace him, and bring him to golf and fishing outings held in the memory of both Uncle Adam and Bellmore firefighter Kevin Prior, who also died in the collapse.
Before 9-11 “Adam would take Jimmy to the firehouse, where he would climb all over the trucks and other equipment,” said Deb. “He also watched the parades, and drove in the Number 7 truck that Adam rode in,” Maryanne added.
“But I was afraid of the fire department when I first started going,” remembers Jimmy, notably because it was the working environment in which his uncle had died, and “I didn’t want any part of that.”
Soon enough, however, Jimmy became comfortable with the constant company of firefighters he found himself in, and came to embrace them as family.
Jimmy’s eventual embrace of his “firefighter family” became complete when, in school and for special projects, he would use photos of 9-11, which parents of Jimmy’s classmates didn’t want their children to see. “We weren’t going to stop him from doing those projects,” said Jimmy’s mother, because that was how he was coping and feeling about it.
Jimmy will remain a probie for at least six months, in which he will train with the department but will not be permitted to enter burning premises or work EMS cases. In spring, he said, he will then train at the fire academy in Bethpage for several days toward a certificate, which will give him more flexibility with the fire department.
In October he will take the New York City firefighter exam in hopes of becoming a New York City firefighter. “I could wait a week, a month or a whole year before I’m called,” Jimmy says, soberly. Once he is called, he says, he will then have take a series of tests to determine his ability to handle firefighting duties at any new firehouse that calls him in.
Concludes Rand neighbor John Brush, who has known the Rands for decades: “Of all that has happened, this is finally an outcome we can feel good about.”