This month’s chat is with one of our heroes – literally and figuratively. Not only is Tom Kenney the father of one of our favorite people (shout out to Meaghann Kenney!), but he is a career firefighter at the Hyannis Fire Department and his involvement in the rescue and recovery efforts after the 9/11 attacks, where he lost many friends and colleagues, holds a permanent place in history at the 9/11 Museum.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you became a firefighter?
From the time I was a small child I knew I wanted to be a firefighter. Both my grandfathers and my dad were career firefighters. So maybe it was their influence that put that in me. Once I was of age, I started as an EMT with the City Of Boston Emergency Medical Services. I was taking the fire exams and waiting. The City put me in the very first Paramedic Class held at Boston City Hospital and I continued with the city as a Paramedic. In 1981 I took the exam for Hyannis Fire and was appointed in January of 82.
What is the best thing about your job? And the worst?
The best thing about the job is that it is the best job in the world. I cannot remember a day in my career where I didn’t want to be at the firehouse. I get to work with a group of men and women who are second to none in what they do. Brave, dedicated, and talented individuals. Every day is different in relation to the calls we are asked to respond to. In most cases it is someone’s emergency. Maybe not to us, but it is to them. They needed help, they called us, and that is what we do. Firefighters help people, all people, with no question. But there are times when the outcome is the worst. Fires where someone’s property is lost, or worse a fire fatality. Dealing with the opiate, alcohol, and homeless problem also wears on our members. But they still love coming to work and helping people.
You were dispatched to New York City after the 9/11 attacks – how did that come to be and what did you do there?
The nation’s fire service and our government joined forces years ago to form 28 specialized rescue task forces across the U.S. These teams are made up of specialized individuals who can be deployed to major incidents to support local agencies during a disaster. Building collapse, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods requiring rescue services are the primary mission of these teams. I hold a position on the Massachusetts Task Force as a FEMA Rescue Squad Officer and deployed to New York on 9-11-01. Our mission was search, rescue, and recovery. Hard to believe it was so long ago….
You retire next month after almost 4 decades of service. What’s next for you?
After almost 37 years on this job I will be retiring. I hate to go. Amazing how fast it all went by. I will continue to teach in the fire service [with Heavy Rescue, Inc.] as I have done now for some years (lots of things to do at home as well). Tremendous memories of all the good we accomplished and the people I have worked with.
Describe your perfect Cape Cod day.
A perfect Cape Cod day is a cloudless sky, sun shining, slight breeze and a lobster roll and a beer by the pool with my family.