for ailing firefighters, police officers,
EMTs, and others who served and
got sick from 9/11 exposure. Ray
would not leave his Washington
D.C. trips without commitments
from Congress, which he received,
but it wasn’t about him.
I was very lucky to have known
Ray over the years as a well-known
and beloved firefighter at FDNY
We unintentionally reignited our friendship right after he was
diagnosed and was assigned to work at the FDNY counterterror-
ism and emergency preparedness unit. I hadn’t seen Ray in a while
and you wouldn’t have known he was sick. I don’t mean by looking
at him, I mean by his attitude. He was happy, laughing, breaking
balls, and just glad to be “kick’n” after his grim diagnosis. It was
truly remarkable, as this man had pretty much been handed the
worst news ever and he was gung ho to be at work and ready to
fight whatever he had to up until his last breath. While smiling.
And fight he did. Those closest to him described that they had
never seen anyone fight like this. There was the physical beating he
took from the disease and the treatments. There were the mental,
emotional, and psychological beatings, but you would NEVER
know it. His life’s mission, before and after his diagnosis, was to
simply do good. And good he did. For example, a few months ago
HE hosted a fundraiser to buy a beautiful new transport van for the
FDNY Family Transport. They raised something like $60,000 that
day. BAM. DONE. Done for others.
My wife Teri and I were able to be with him and some of his
friends and family when he was in hospice. When asked how the
visit went, I will tell you what I told a few friends: It was almost
spiritual. We laughed ... busted chops ... told a few stories ... we
hugged ... kissed ... a few “we’ll see ya arounds,” and there was no
outward sadness. I’m not sure he would allow it or whatever, but it
was something else. Maybe, according to Ray, there was no time for
sadness. Crazy as ever.
Clearly when we left we could see the heartache and heartbreak
of his closest family and friends, but when in the room you might
as well have been at his firehouse kitchen shooting the bull. When
we left, our hearts were full with every emotion pinging on high.
Ray died on May 28, 2017, right when our firefighters were
picking up from a third-alarm commercial building fire in the heart
of our historical district. I’m not sure there is any connection with
Firefighter Ray Pfeifer.
His life’s mission,
before and after his
diagnosis, was to simply
do good. And good he did.