Dan Mullan of Danville has strong ties to his extended family in New York. Growing up, Dan spent a great amount of time in the Big Apple visiting family and growing especially close to his cousin Michael.
Despite the distance, the cousins — only two months apart in age — became close friends. During family visits, they did the usual "boy" things, playing games and baseball, and once even sharing food poisoning on a trip to Santa Cruz.
After their teen years, the cousins mainly communicated by email, sharing their sense of humor through jokes.
Michael, the East Coast cousin, served in the Army and became a registered nurse, then a firefighter — following his desire to serve others. Across the country, Dan went to San Jose State University and moved to Danville in 1997. He currently works in construction Sales.
Dan last saw Michael in November of 2000 in New York at a parade commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Korean War. Dan's father and uncle both came to California after serving in the war.
Dan's father marched in the parade and Michael, wearing his military uniform, saluted his uncle as he passed by. The pride of that day was felt deeply in the Mullan family, Dan said, and the pride continues today.
Michael Mullan was in Ladder Company 12 of the New York City Fire Department. He was called to the Marriott Hotel near the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
When American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower at 8:46 a.m., half of the Marriot hotel came down with it. Firefighters helped evacuate guests who were trapped in the hotel.
Michael had been assigned a rookie firefighter that day. As conditions got worse and the building became more unstable, Michael received a mayday call from other firefighters who were trapped inside.
Michael told the rookie to continue evacuating the building. Then Michael went in to help his brother firefighters — and never came out.
Dan Mullan was on a Colorado road trip with his wife, Deb, on Sept. 11, 2001. They were at a hotel when they saw news of the attacks on TV.
Worried about Michael and other family members who worked in the area near the World Trade Center towers, Dan called his parents, but there was no news yet.
Michael often called his mom — Dan's Aunt Terri — when he was on his way to a fire scene. And Michael did call on Sept. 11, saying "I love you" and "goodbye" — as if he knew he was about to enter a life-threatening situation, Terri later told Dan.
Michael's parents were devastated by their son's death that day. Dan said it was difficult to see his uncle Pat, a former Marine and New York City sanitation worker, seemingly broken.
The family did find comfort in small things after Michael's death, such as a picture taken the day he died. The photo shows his fire truck heading toward the disaster, with a smoking World Trade Center looming in the background.
Dan said his family takes pride in the memorials in and around New York. At Michael's firehouse, there is a tribute to the five firefighters who lost their lives trying to save the lives of others.
Michael's family attends the ceremony at Ground Zero each year. Dan said his relatives have told him that a room which includes a photo of each person who died that day provides a quiet place to grieve and remember.
For the relatives in California, Sept. 11 weighs heavily as well. You might see Dan Mullan around town wearing a FDNY T-shirt or hat. The family has stickers on their cars to honor the men and women who lost their lives on Sept. 11. Dan's 9-year-old son, Colin, races mini cup cars and proudly displays a sticker of the World Trade Center and FDNY on his car to remind everyone to "Never Forget."
For Dan, it's hard to believe that 10 years have passed. He still feels profound sadness for all the families who lost someone that day. He thinks of the bravery of all the firefighters, police officers, and Port Authority officers who ran toward the towers to help while everyone else was running away.
On this Sept. 11, as he has every year since the World Trade Center attacks, Dan will remember his cousin who died trying to save others.
"For years, my wife, Deb, and son, Colin, and I have gone down to San Jose on Sept. 11. About eight years ago we met some firefighters from Engine 3 and they adopted our West Coast family for this anniversary," said Dan.
"We go to Mass with them at St. Joseph's Cathedral and are also invited back to the station for a ceremony."
Dan said it makes his family feel like they are apart of the fire department family since they can't make it to Ground Zero for the memorial.
"It meant a lot to my dad when he was alive. I thank the guys at Engine 3 and the SJFD for that," said Dan.