Firefighter struck down by 9-11 cancer honored in old neighborhood

Proud: Lizanne Gormley and her daughter Bridget, 27, and triplets William Jr., Raymond, and Kevin, 20, were overwhelmed by the street co-naming for their late husband and father, at the intersection of Flatbush and Flatlands avenues on Oct. 13.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

It was a hero’s tribute.

Family and local leaders honored one of New York’s Bravest who died from 9-11-related illness with a street co-naming in East Flatbush. William “Billy” Gormley, of Ladder company 174 in East Flatbush, was memorialized at the intersection of Flatbush and Flatlands avenues on Oct. 13 with the unveiling of a new street sign bearing his name.

The ceremony paid tribute to the brave firefighter who served in the United States Marine Corps and was a first responder rushing to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

In the aftermath, Gormley worked for weeks amid the lethal dust and smoke of the still-smoldering World Trade Center rubble to help recover the remains of his fallen brothers, and as a result of his heroic efforts, he contracted lung cancer, which finally claimed his life on June 14, 2017.

His colleagues and fire truck from Ladder 174 turned out at the corner on that crisp Saturday morning to pay tribute to their fallen brother, and went above and beyond expectations, according to his wife.

“It was textbook perfect. It was a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be,” said Lizanne Gormley, who was joined by her daughter Bridget, 27, and triplets William Jr., Raymond, and Kevin, all 20, who came down from college upstate for the occasion, and were in awe of the outpouring of honor and respect.

“They were just floored by the ceremony, I don’t think they’ve ever seen anything like that,” their mother said.

The unveiling was led by Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–East Flatbush) along with state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Marine Park), and the bipartisan support was an encouraging sign to Gormley.

“Jumaane Williams had a really big hand in it and making it happen and Marty Golden did too, the two of them working together, which was really great,” she said.

The new sign graces the corner where the late firefighter grew up and where he would meet with friends when he was younger, according to Gormley.

“They didn’t have cellphones back then, they just met at the corner,” she said.

She grew up just a stone’s throw away in Midwood and the future couple’s paths crossed along the way.

“He grew up on Flatbush and I grew up on Nostrand, we went to the same high school. Our paths always crossed, so close but yet so far,” she said.

Throughout Gormley’s service — as a Marine and a firefighter — he always remained selfless, according to his wife.

“He was all about the community, he would never put himself first, always was there to help anybody,” she said.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.

More from Around New York