Former firefighter union president James “Jimmy” Boyle, who steered the rank-and-file through negotiations with the city during two terms, died Sunday. He was 80. His family said he died after a long battle with cancer.
Boyle, who joined the FDNY February 10, 1962, had already retired when terrorists struck the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
The former firefighter was working at the Brooklyn DA’s office the morning two hijacked planes slammed into the skyscrapers. Boyle raced on foot across the Brooklyn Bridge to the chaotic scene, and arrived just as the North Tower collapsed.
Despite being knocked off his feet and temporarily blinded by the thick cloud of dust, he survived. But his son, a firefighter, who had proudly followed in Boyle’s footsteps, did not.
Michael Boyle, 37, had just finished his overnight shift and was preparing to go home when the early-morning call to the towers came in. He and firefighters from Engine 33 were saving lives in the North Tower on the 41st floor when the building began to collapse.
They made it as far as the lobby. Michael’s father was less than a block away when the building came down.
“He never wanted anyone to forget that,” said Mary Lynch, Boyle’s oldest daughter. “He was thrown and cut and stuff. But he lived.”
One of Boyle’s other sons, James, a now-retired police officer, was also working a rescue operation in the building, but he got out alive, too.
Boyle spent months at the site looking for his son’s remains with other firefighter dads, finally discovering his son’s turnout coat about four months later.
His son’s death fueled a crusade to get better radio equipment for firefighters, a mission he continued with a fervor as a homeland security adviser to U.S. Rep. Peter King, a Long Island Republican.
King said he talked to Boyle just days before the retired firefighter’s death. He said Boyle knew the end was coming, but he talked with excitement about everything from the President Trump’s impeachment woes to the Mets’ search for a new manager. He even talked about his funeral plans.
“He was just going on. He was so casual,” King said. “He sounded like he was talking about someone else’s funeral.”
A wake for Boyle will be held Nov. 4 at the Dalton Funeral Home in Williston Park, L.I., his daughter said. His funeral will be held Nov. 5 at St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church in Westbury.
Boyle also served eight years as the associate director of the fire service institute at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice where he established a fire cadet program.
In recent years Boyle, a native New Yorker, moved to Rochester. In September 2016, he visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral for an emotional 9/11 memorial service where Timothy Cardinal Dolan blessed the 343 FDNY members who died in the attack.
“Each year amazes me more,” Boyle said at the time. “I look at all the faces that pass by and think what could’ve been.”