During his youth, Firefighter Thomas McCann used to rule the courts at Woodside’s IS 125, commanding his teams through games and tournaments with a natural ability to lead.
More than a year after McCann lost his life rescuing people at the World Trade Center, those same playgrounds that once bore the athletic dance of his feet are now part of a building that bears his name.
IS 125 was renamed “The Thomas J. McCann Woodside Intermediate School” during a ceremony Friday in the school’s 47th Avenue auditorium, where McCann was remembered as an ideal role model for young people.
“Everything Tom stood for in life is what we look to build into the character of young students,” said McCann’s childhood best friend, Raymond Curatolo, one of three people to offer their memories of the fallen firefighter. “When students ask today or in the years to come what kind of person Tom was, please tell them he was special.”
A resolution calling for the school to be renamed for McCann was proposed earlier this year by Linda Sansivieri, a member of School Board 24, which enthusiastically approved the measure.
McCann grew up in Woodside and attended St. Theresa’s School, which was represented at the ceremony by a group of students, one from each grade, who sat quietly in one of the front rows.
Although he was not enrolled at IS 125, McCann spent many years pounding the playground pavement and gymnasium floor, a popular gathering place for young athletes in the neighborhood.
“Tom was always the person everyone would look to pull a miracle at the end of a game,” said Firefighter Chris Larocca, one of McCann’s colleagues at Engine Co. 65 in Manhattan. “Tom was a great leader not only in the firehouse but in all aspects of life.”
His brother, George McCann described the firefighter as a man who possessed “a will to never quit, no matter how tired.”
“He was simply someone you wanted to be with, that’s what made him special,” George McCann said.
Students from the IS 125 choir sang a rendition of “God Bless America” after four members of the school color guard marched a collection of flags to the stage.
“It’s very special to have this school named after him,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “We’ve always had a warm place in our hearts for our firemen, but Sept. 11 raised them to new heights.”
“For all of the young people, it will be a great inspiration to them,” said state Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood).
McCann left behind a wife, Anne, and their children Sean, 14, and Courtney, 17.