All of us, when we are little – even before we can talk sometimes – look at this great big world and pick a dream as to what we want to be when we grow up: police officer, ballerina, singer, firefighter, doctor, actor, president, the list goes on and on. As we grow older, some of us find new dreams to latch onto while others hold onto that first glance of a future they always knew that would create.
18-year old Roselle Park resident Bobby Brennan is one of those who this year took one step closer to realizing his dream – to be a firefighter. Last month he was appointed by Mayor Joseph Accardi to Engine Company No. 3 – the Faitoute Fire House – as a probationary firefighter.
Ever since his first fire truck, Bobby knew what he wanted to be; it was a calling. Being around his uncle, a firefighter, the young boy would learn about the gear, be able to identify all the parts of a fire engine, imitate fire sirens,even set his clothes in a firefighter formation, and use his trucks not as toys but as his own ladder company. But it was more than having a family member be a fireman. Bobby plainly stated, “I don’t know. It’s always been my dream.”
Then on September 11, 2001, six-year-old Bobby saw what no one should have to see. Amid the horror and heartbreak of that day, Bobby learned that 341 of his heroes had suited up, entered buildings that everyone else was running away from, and walked up flights of stairs to do what they do, never to hear the final bell that signaled the completion of that call. It scared him.
Bobby recalled, “It changed my whole mind-set. It made it real. I thought, maybe this isn’t a good idea for me but then I thought about it and I knew I had to put my fear aside because it’s what I want to do. It made me realize that every call might be your last but all firefighters are there to protect property but, more importantly, lives.”
Bobby’s father, Robert Brennan, someone familiar with the reality of following a dream being a police officer with 26-years experience, offered his young son some advice, “If you have a dream, work on your fears to set them aside but do what you love to do.”
Bobby carried that with him when he joined the Fire Patrol Training Program at age 16, getting familiar with the day-to-day aspects of maintaining a fire house. He recalls how everything rushed to life when he rode his first call, “It was amazing! I got to ride in the front seat. It was for a gas leak but it was a real call.”
He still cannot enter a building during a working fire but he has gradually taken on greater responsibility and now walks the building and does what is called overhauling which involves ripping damaged pieces of property down, throwing them out windows, and making sure there is no fire or smoldering left; most recently during the fire at Krahnert Brothers on Westfield Avenue.
Along the way, Bobby has been on call for 28 hours during Sandy, attending to calls of trees that fell on houses and downed wires throughout town. He has taken part in a ‘live burn’ (real training simulation) setting up and clearing out after the fire exercises. In January, Bobby will be attending the Fire Training Academy in Linden which will officially give him the title he has always known himself as – firefighter.