Hillary Clinton is almost as unpopular among firefighters as she is among cops, but one of the most revered figures of the FDNY immediately agreed when a Democratic operative asked him to appear in a short film on her behalf and then attend the convention.
“They would play it at the convention and I would be there,” retired FDNY firefighter Jimmy Boyle says of the phone call he received last week. “They told me I would be down in Philadelphia.”
Jimmy would have been appearing as someone who had been in the shadow of the burning North Tower of the World Trade Center when it came down. Jimmy had spoken on the phone with his son, firefighter Michael Boyle of Engine 33, minutes before the attack. Michael had been going off duty, but Jimmy worried he had hopped on the rig anyway and had been inside the tower.
“How about my son, Engine 33?” Jimmy asked a surviving chief after the air cleared.
“Jimmy, anybody who was in the building is gone,” the chief said. “Everybody is gone. Father Judge is gone.”
Jimmy had been close to Chaplain Mychal Judge. Hillary Clinton called the priest “my friend” and spoke at his funeral. Many who heard her eulogy felt that this worst of moments had brought out the very best in Hillary. She seemed to be speaking from a genuine core that Mychal had recognized, that had often prompted him to defend her when firefighters dismissed her as a fake who would say anything.
Mychal would no doubt have seen the Almighty at work had his good buddy Jimmy Boyle been down in Philadelphia, speaking of the good Hillary, the one who had been so supportive of the families who had lost loved ones in the attack.
“She’s always voted every time for our interest,” Jimmy Boyle is always ready to say.
And Boyle was once president of the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association. The former head of a firefighter’s union would have been appearing for Hillary at a time when police unions have been slamming her.
But Boyle can only figure that the area code on his cellphone made the Democratic operative think that he still lived in the New York City area. Boyle has since moved to Rochester and he told the operative that he would need transportation to wherever the film was to be shot and to the convention.
“He said he would get back to me,” Boyle reported on Tuesday afternoon. “They never called back.”
Boyle surmises that the Democrats did not want to spring for the plane ticket. There might have been more to it if the list of convention speakers on Tuesday night is an indication. The speaker representing first responders from 9/11 was NYPD Det. Joe Sweeney, who apparently arrived at the scene after the second tower came down and any immediate danger had passed.
Sweeney had not lost a son nor a brother, but he was a cop, which in these circumstances made him a twofer. The Democrats were being criticized for including family members of people who had been killed by the police. And a 9/11 cop was a way of including a cop without a lot of complications about police relations with the community.
“When we needed someone to speak for us, to stand with us, to fight on our behalf, Hillary Clinton was there every step of the way,” Sweeney told the convention.
He was followed by Lauren Manning, a business executive who was in the lobby of the North Tower, waiting for an elevator to take her to her office on the 105th floor when the first hijacked plane hit and burning jet fuel poured down the shaft, burning her over 80 percent of her body. She was in the hospital for six months, but survived. She praised Hillary Clinton for her unwavering support, not just for a constituent, but for a fellow human being.
Maybe the Democrats figured that with Manning and Sweeney as part of a whole 9/11 package, they had that part of Tuesday night’s script covered. But those who know the magnificently genuine and monumentally un-crooked Jimmy know what an opportunity Hillary missed.
In political terms, she certainly could have used a moving endorsement from a white union guy who lost his heroic son at the start of our longest war.
On a deeper level, Jimmy would have brought with him the spirit of Mychal Judge, who in life recognized what was best in Hillary and in death roused her to prove him right. Mychal’s theology was that just as the devil is to be found in evil, God is to be found in good, and that by recognizing good in others we make good—and therefore God—stronger.
Jimmy has much the same goodness as Judge had. A Queens monsignor who grew up with him remarked after presiding for the third time at a funeral for a soldier killed in action in Iraq, “Jimmy is the one who should have become a priest.”
Jimmy does not so much keep people honest as make them want to be honest.
He is hardly put out that he never got a call back from the Democratic operative. He is always busy doing many things for many people. And he and his wife, Barbara Boyle, are preparing for Sept. 11 and the 15th anniversary of the morning they lost their son and Mychal Judge and so many others.
“I got to get ready,” Jimmy told The Daily Beast.
The observance may be a day that Hillary wishes she had a knock-around holy man like Jimmy Boyle at her side and that she was not disliked by almost as many firefighters as cops.