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    2 brothers: 1 lost, 1 looking

    A Hillsborough firefighter learns his firefighter brother was likely caught in the World Trade Center collapse. He's driving there, vowing to comb the rubble for him.

    By AMY HERDY

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published September 13, 2001


    photo
    [Times photo: Mike Pease]
    Hillsborough firefighter Brian Muldowney holds a photo of his brother Richard, a New York firefighter missing in the World Trade Center collapse. Brian had rented a van and planned to go there with other family members.
    TAMPA -- As soon as he heard about the airplane crash, Brian Muldowney called the New York City fire station where his oldest brother works, a little over a mile from the World Trade Center.

    "Is Richard Muldowney working today?" he asked, and his heart sank with the answer.

    "They said no, but he just jumped on the rig and went with them," Brian recalled. "I had a bad feeling about this; I just knew."

    About 10 a.m., the crew from New York City's ladder truck No. 7 -- Richard Muldowney's company -- told radio dispatchers they were on the 103rd floor of one of the two World Trade Center towers.

    Moments later, the building collapsed.

    Now Brian Muldowney, 32, himself a firefighter for Hillsborough County, has thrown his gear into a rented Ford van and plans to drive nonstop to New York with other family members.

    Once there, he plans to report to Fire Station 7, suit up and search in the rubble for the brother he knows as Richie.

    "As a firefighter, it's what we do," he said. "We've had tragedies in the past . . . "

    His voice began to break.

    "I'm going to work until my hands bleed, and then I'm going to keep on going after that," he said.

    Richard Muldowney Jr., 40, is married and has two children, Brian said. He had just finished a shift early Tuesday and was supposed to go home.

    The fact that he jumped on the truck instead did not surprise Brian. Helping is in the family's blood.

    Their dad was a New York City cop; brother Kevin, 39, is a New York cop; and Richie and Brian are firefighters. Sister Mary Muldowney, 35, is a clerk for the Nassau County Police Department on Long Island.

    Sister Colleen Andellow, Kevin's twin, is a stay-at-home mom in Tampa, and brother Timmy, 37, owns a Tampa car detailing shop. Half of the family stayed in New York, and the other half moved to Florida when their dad, who died two years ago, retired.

    When he heard that the building had collapsed, Brian Muldowney told his boss at Fire Station 31 in Town 'N Country he was headed out the door.

    "I already told my chief I'm not coming back until I find out what happened to my brother," he said.

    Other firefighters have donated their time to cover two months' worth of his shifts.

    Since Tuesday morning, Muldowney has been on a roller coaster of emotion. An early report said that someone had seen his brother's crew and that they were okay.

    That proved to be false.

    "My heart hit the floor," he said.

    Since then, the family calls a number for New York firefighters' families every hour, hoping to hear something. "Good news or bad news, you want to find out," he said.

    A cousin, Kenny Watson, also a New York City firefighter, also has not been accounted for, along with several other friends.

    "So many guys we grew up with are one of the . . . missing," he said.

    So Brian, his mother, Anne Muldowney, 63, his brother Timmy, brother-in-law Thomas Andellow, 39, their wives and a pack of nieces and nephews are heading to New York, a cooler stocked with sodas, water and sandwiches.

    He sustains himself with hope.

    "I'm a former altar boy," he said just before he climbed into the van. "You can only imagine how much praying I'm doing."

    -- Amy Herdy can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or herdy@sptimes.com.

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