Joe Downey

WCBS 880

Son Honors Legendary 9/11 Firefighter At NYC Marathon

November 04, 2018 - 5:04 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Veteran firefighter Joe Downey ran the New York City Marathon on Sunday in memory of his father, a legendary FDNY chief killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Downey says he turned out for the world's largest marathon because his oldest nieces had added it to their bucket list. He says they were inspired by his father, Ray Downey.

“So we’re going to do it in my dad’s memory,” Downey told WCBS 880's Peter Haskell on Sunday morning. “We had shirts made up with my dad on it – him finishing the marathon back in the 80s.”

Ray Downey led the special operations command on Sept. 11, when he died at the age of 63, along with more than 340 other members of the FDNY.  

Downey says his father inspired people in many ways throughout his life, including through his fire service. But there were things many people weren’t aware of.  

“He was a great athlete, and nobody knew that. He ran marathons. He played hockey with the FDNY hockey team. He kept himself in great shape. Former Marine… so always looking for a challenge," Downey said. 

Downey first ran the New York City Marathon with his father back in 1981.

“We ran together most of the race. And towards the end, he told me, ‘Go ahead, you’re running a little faster than me today, so go ahead and I’ll meet you at the end.’”

Downey says that looking back he realizes how special it was to spend time with his father at what he calls, “one of the best events in New Yok City.”

“I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have back then. You know, running with your dad,” he said. “I’m going to appreciate it today.”