In 2000, firefighter Tommy Foley was featured shirtless in People Magazine’s 100 Most Eligible Bachelors issue. In 1998, when he was assigned to Squad 41, he was the one chosen to go over the side of a 17-story building to rescue two construction workers dangling on a broken scaffold 12-stories up in the air. He was a bull rider in rodeos, trained his dog to be a field trial champion, and took on bit parts on “The Sopranos” and “Third Watch.” By all accounts he lived life to the fullest. Tommy, 32, was an FDNY firefighter for 10 years and with Rescue 3 for three. It was “the best job in the world” as far as he was concerned.
I had the honor to meet Thomas Foley’s mother when Better Angels was in NYC in 2012. She gave me a video the family had made and told me this story. The details are a little fuzzy 18 months out, but I believe the kernel of the story to be true. Foley’s brother is also an FDNY firefighter. He and his father promised they would find Tommy to bring him home for burial. Day after day they were at the smoking pile of Ground Zero. His father stood on the roof of Ten House and scanned the pile through high rez binoculars for days. Finally he spotted a Rescue 3 helmet. The ground was still to hot to dig (cameras still melted when lowered underground) so an orange cone was placed to mark the spot. When they could dig down, they found a mask harness and a pair of bunker pants identifying Gerard Schrang. They also found Tommy, identified by the arrowhead necklace he wore. His brother helped to bring him out.