Retired FDNY Fireboat, the John D. Mckean, in Service During 9/11 and Miracle on the Hudson Undergoes Restoration

Non-Profit Organization Seeks Donations to Complete Repairs and Create a Museum Ship Honoring All Who Served

Being hauled out at North River Shipyard, July 2019 – Photo by Edward Taylor

The historic John D. McKean Fireboat was hauled out of the water at the North River Shipyard in Upper Nyack, NY this week to complete necessary repairs to its hull.  It will be there through the end of August while ship builders complete exterior repair, volunteers continue work on the deck and interior restoration and trustees of the boat determine its permanent location.

The Fireboat McKean Preservation Project, a not-for-profit established to save the McKean, seeks to raise $150,000 by September 11th, 2019 to assist with the costs for repairs and creation of a museum ship for the public.  The Steven Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation recently endorsed the project and supported the non-profit with a donation of $10,000.

“The Fireboat McKean Preservation Project seeks to honor the sacrifices made on September 11, 2001 and will ensure its proud history and legacy are passed on to upcoming generations. It is critical that we all Never Forget,” said Frank Siller, Chairman and CEO of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

Edward Taylor, the founder and immediate past president of the non-profit expressed gratitude to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and to owners of the North River Shipyard.  “The support of Tunnel to Towers is incredibly generous and has given us a strong start.  The shipyard has been very gracious in working with us to ensure the boat stays afloat.  It is exciting to see this magnificent vessel hauled out and we hope that we can give her the attention she needs.”

Briarcliff Manor resident Tracy Conte, current president of the Fireboat McKean Preservation Project, whose father FDNY Lt. Harry Wanamaker served on the McKean during the events of September 11th and later died of 9/11-related cancer said her father would be elated.  “He took us to visit the McKean down in Battery Park when we were kids.  Years later when he served on the fireboat, prior to 9/11 he would invite people on for tours,” Conte said. “He would be in awe to see the boat lifted out of the water like it is today and to know that people are working to save it.” Coincidentally, Lt. Wanamaker was a life-long resident of Upper Nyack where the shipyard is located, and he worked there as a young firefighter painting the hulls of boats to earn extra money to support his family.

Hard-working volunteers have done exceptional work to preserve and restore the boat up to now.  This includes firefighters who spent time working on the pile, and a volunteer whose father also passed away of 9/11-related cancer.

“As word gets out, we are beginning to hear from firefighters, pilots, engineers and others who served aboard the McKean, or whose relative served aboard, and firefighters and marine enthusiasts from across the region who want to know how they can help, and how they can the visit the boat,” Conte added.  “This growing interest is wonderful. Donations are urgently needed right now so that we can repair the hull and make the McKean seaworthy.  Every contribution will help us complete the repair work and go on to give boat rides and open the boat to the public as a museum ship.”

The John D. McKean has served the New York City Fire Department as Marine Co. 1 for 58 years.  It is named in memory of Marine Engineer John D. McKean, who was burned by live steam on September 17, 1953 in an explosion on the fireboat George B. McCellan.  Although fatally injured, McKean heroically remained at his post valiantly trying to keep the vessel under control.

The fireboat has a noble history of service to New York City and the Nation.  Docked on the lower west side of Manhattan throughout its tenure, on 9/11 and in the weeks following, the McKean played a crucial role. From its members involved in the fire, collapse and immediate rescue efforts that morning as people sought to escape the World Trade Center, jumping from the lower Manhattan seawall onto the boat and into the water in a desperate escape and the boat ferrying them to safety in New Jersey, to pumping water aggressively and tirelessly from the Hudson River to maximum capacity to subdue the thousands of fires burning under the pile and crushed infrastructure in the days and weeks thereafter.

In January 2009, the McKean responded to Captain Sully Sullenberger’s Hudson River landing of US Airways Flight 1549 during the Miracle on the Hudson, to rescue passengers and secure the plane from sinking.

In addition to emergency calls, the McKean ceremoniously welcomed runners to the New York City Marathon with a water display every year, assisted the USS Intrepid into its mooring, supervised the annual Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks display barges and hosted numerous dignitaries.  In continuing its ceremonial role, the McKean recently celebrated the opening day for the new Gov. Mario Cuomo Bridge, hosting local Village officials and conducting a water display.

The retired fireboat was purchased at auction in 2016 and has been beautifully restored, with one final major project to be completed, the repair of its hull which is urgently needed to ensure the boat stays afloat and can welcome visitors.  Trustees are also evaluating future mooring locations along the Hudson River to find a permanent location with good public access in advance of the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 in 2021, so that everyone can enjoy the magnificent vessel, learn about its service and honor those who served aboard.

For further information, to volunteer and to make a tax-deductible donation, visit www.fireboatmckean.org/takeaction or email info@fireboatmckean.org. Donations may be mailed to:  The Fireboat McKean Preservation Project, 311 Manida Street, New York, NY 10474-6819.

4 Comments

  1. I knew Harry Wanamaker when he worked in Ladder 40 a wonderful man. Good luck in this worth while project. Never forget, Jack Culkin

  2. Had the pleasure to work with Harry Wanamaker in Harlem and the Bronx. He was a terrific guy and a devoted firefighter.
    Always a good tour when you worked with Harry.
    Let us Never Forget Harry and all those who sacrificed so much on 9/11.

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