A Workhorse on the Hudson River, Now Retired From Fighting Fires, Chugs Toward a Second Act - The New York Times
BY Noah Remnick
ABOARD THE JOHN D. McKEAN, in Tarrytown, N.Y. — On a gleaming Thursday morning in March, a candy red fireboat rattled awake and set forth from its station in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. As the ship voyaged north along the Hudson River at nine knots, it left more than half a century of history in its wake.
Since the 129-foot vessel, the John D. McKean, was commissioned into service in 1954, the sight of it on New York City’s waterfront has signaled some variety of peril — a smoldering warehouse, a capsized barge.
It was there to douse the flames when a fire in 1991 swallowed the Manhattan terminal of the Staten Island Ferry. It shuttled hundreds of people to safety in Jersey City after the World Trade Center was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, and supplied firefighters with water at ground zero for days thereafter. It gave refuge to passengers huddled on the water-lapped wings of US Airways Flight 1549 after it landed in the Hudson River in January 2009.
Even the ship’s name bears the weight of the New York Fire Department’s past: John D. McKean, a marine engineer, was burned to death in 1953 when he stayed at his post on the fireboat George B. McClellan, trying to steady the vessel after a steam explosion. Mr. McKean’s son and grandson both followed him into the department.