The 2024 23rd Anniversary Run

About Deputy Chief Raymond M. Downey

After serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in the Middle East, Ray Downey was appointed to the New York City Fire Department in 1962. Chief Downey’s phenomenal 39-year career with the FDNY was built upon success after success and rescue after rescue. One of the most decorated men in the department, Chief Downey received five individual medals for valor and 16 unit citations. Additionally, referred to as “The Master of Disaster” and “God”, Downey, commanding officer of the Special Operations Command (SOC), died in the line of duty while helping others escape from the fire and collapse scene of the World Trade Center on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. He was truly a legend in his own time. 

The Deputy Chief Raymond M. Downey Scholarship Charity Fund All proceeds from the race will benefit the organizations supported by the family of Ray Downey.

Scholarship Charity Fund

As a tribute to Chief Downey's legacy, his family has established the D.C. Raymond Downey Scholarship Charity Fund to keep his memory alive and to benefit the many organizations that Chief Downey cherished.

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In Memory of DC Ray Downey

Now the pin means even more to the family. Ray Downey was among the 343 firemen killed during rescue operations at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. His body has not been recovered.

Since Sept. 11, Rosalie has worn the pin every day for some solace and courage to go on, as her family struggles with the loss of the 40-year fire department veteran who never missed a grandchild's soccer tournament or softball game. It is a symbol both of her husband's love and her faith that he is now in heaven.

"The pin always meant an angel for your shoulder to watch over you in peace and love," says Rosalie Downey. "Now I know the angel is Ray."

And now it has become a source of connection with other New York firefighters' families who lost loved ones in the worst tragedy the department has ever faced.

Finding Strength by Helping Others

The first day Rosalie and her family went to Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, a friend whose firefighter son is also missing saw the pin and loved it, and that made Rosalie decide to give matching firefighter angel pins to all the other families, hoping it would help them as it has helped her.

Now the family is sending them out, each with a red, white and blue ribbon, a poem by Rosalie's daughter Kathy Downey Ugalde, and a comforting letter from Rosalie reminding each family "that we as a nation will never forget the heroic action of your firefighter on that dreadful day."

"Maybe the families will feel the same way as me Ñ that their loved ones are looking over them as well and it will give them courage and strength," she says.

Kay Morgans, the owner of Firehouse Treasures, the small Oklahoma company that makes the pins, is donating the pins.

Morgans, a firefighter's wife herself, says she has made it a practice to send a firefighter angel pin to the family of each fallen firefighter across the country. She is grateful that Rosalie is personally distributing the pins in New York.

"I just think it's so admirable," she says.

A Reminder of Her 'Guardian Angel'

Denise Esposito, whose husband Michael is among the missing in New York, is grateful for the gift.

"I've had a guardian angel since Wednesday [Sept. 12]," she says. "I knew when I looked up in the sky and saw all those stars. He's here with me."

The pin, she says, will reinforce her faith, and be a reminder of her husband. It's especially meaningful because her husband and Ray Downey had been close, she says.

"Michael looked up to him. Downey was his mentor," the mother of two remembers. "[Michael] busted his chops so much because he loved him so much."


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