To the firefighters he led, William Feehan was legendary. The son of a firefighter and the father of another, it was said that he knew the location of every fire hydrant in New York City. Feehan joined the city’s fire department in 1959 as a member of Ladder Company 3. In his 42 years with the department, Feehan steadily made his way through the ranks. When he was named acting commissioner in 1991, he become the first person in history to have held every possible position in the department.

Feehan died in the line of duty on September 11, 2001, when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed on his command station. He was 71. This oral history was recorded in 1992 by Feehan’s son Billy and photographer Harvey Wang. It is dedicated to the members of the New York City Fire Department and to all of the men and women who have risked — and lost — their lives to save the lives of others.

Recorded in New York City. Premiered September 15, 2001, on Weekend Edition Saturday.

This documentary comes from Sound Portraits Productions, a mission-driven independent production company that was created by Dave Isay in 1994. Sound Portraits was the predecessor to StoryCorps and was dedicated to telling stories that brought neglected American voices to a national audience.