Families Of 9/11 Firefighters Get Day Of Toys, Fun

CBS 2 - November 23, 2009

by Dave Carlin

Times Square Toys 'R' Us Hosts Event For Families Of Firefighters Lost In September 11 WTC Terror Attacks

NEW YORK (CBS) - More than 600 children of fallen firefighters enjoyed exclusive access to the flagship Toys 'R' Us store in Times Square on Sunday. For these kids, holiday time can be bittersweet - but on Sunday, it was all about fun.

It was a day of high-flying fun, from the tiniest remote-controlled chopper to the big indoor ferris wheel, and it put big smiles on the faces of Dawn McAleese and her four children. Eight-year-old Aidan is the youngest.

"I was really amazed when it flew and it almost hit my mom," Aidan said.

Before Aidan was even a year old, his firefighter dad, Brian McAleese of Engine Company 226, was killed in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

His father's memory is being kept alive at gatherings like the one on Sunday, an event for families of the hero firefighters who died in the line of duty.

"Reminding them of the sacrifices their father made," Dawn McAleese, of Wantagh, said. "It's so overwhelming, and we're filled with gratitude for that."

"It's completely the best part of it, it's what it's all about, it's all about family," 13-year-old Brianne McAleese said.

Brianne is the oldest, and she's protective of her three brothers. She loves to see them so happy, in a place full of people who knew their father.

It is the goal of the Uniformed Firefighters Association to take care of every need for families of the fallen, and in this case they are taking care of their emotional needs at holiday time.

"We just stand at the door, and watch the children come in, and watch their faces light up," Dan Murphy, Manhattan Trustee of the UFA, said. "It's the importance of bringing the families together, that they can share their thoughts together and start this holiday season off on a positive foot."

"It's just like home," Dawn said. "You come back and see everybody and it's nice."

"It's really fun," 10-year-old Liam McAleese said.

The McAleese family finds joy bonding with others who understand sacrifice and loss, and while they take pride in remembering, they know when to forget about the tough stuff and just be a kid, having fun.