How the Legacy of Terry Farrell, New York Firefighter Killed on 9/11, Continues to Save Lives 20 Years On
Terry Farrell's actions in life, both on September 11, 2001, and well before then, have inspired so many to live selflessly and take steps to help others, his brother, Brian, told Inside Edition Digital.
Terry Farrell was a man whose ethos could be boiled down in the simplest of terms.
“He was a real low key guy who liked to help people a lot,” his brother Brian Farrell told Inside Edition Digital.
But there was nothing simple or low key about what Terry did on Sept. 11, 2001.
As a member of the FDNY, Terry, along with 412 other emergency workers, 343 of whom were firefighters, made the ultimate sacrifice when he went into the Twin Towers to rescue those trapped inside in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
“He always was out to help people. He loved the fire service. He loved training new guys. He really didn't take a lot of credit for anything he did,” Brian said of his brother, nearly 20 years on since his passing.
That was much the case when Inside Edition spoke to Terry himself in 1993.
“I don't go out and start telling everybody, pat me on the back and what a great guy he is and all of this stuff, because there's people that know I'm not that great all the time,” he said.
In 1993, Terry made headlines when he donated his bone marrow to a little girl he had never met. His selfless act saved the child's life.
“Terry gave me my life,” Chantyl Peterson told Inside Edition in the fall of 2001.
In 1993, Chantyl suffered from potentially fatal T-cell lymphoma. She desperately needed a bone marrow donation. Enter Terry, a robust father of two from Huntington, Long Island. Though a total stranger, Terry was on the national donor list, and when he learned he was a perfect match, he gladly gave his marrow.
“It feels good to know you did something you chose to do, and somebody's alive today because you did it,” Terry told Inside Edition in 1993.
By the following year, the rare form of cancer no longer posed a threat to Chantyl. Terry was delighted. They met after the transplant was complete, forging what many thought would be a friendship for decades to come after seeing just how precious life can be.
“We work in a dangerous profession and you know that one day you might walk out the door, you might not come home again,” Terry said at the time.
As he was wont to do, Terry made no fuss about his actions in saving Chantyl, so much so, that his family only learned of the transplant while watching television, his brother told Inside Edition Digital recently.
“Terry's VCR was broken and he wanted to tape it for his kids. So, he asked [our other brother] Dennis to tape it and Dennis calls me up and says, ‘You won't believe what's on TV.’ And I looked. He didn't even tell us he was going to do that,” Brain said. “In those days, I don't know what it's like now, but it was a very painful procedure. He didn't mention it to anybody. He just went out and did it at his own expense. And fortunately, it worked.”
Brian said that Terry became involved in helping those who needed bone marrow transplants after his nephew, Brian’s son, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1989.
“So, when this opportunity came about for Terry, he jumped on it as a way to get involved. And he got involved big time and he saved a little girl's life,” Brian said. “Since then, he helped establish the bone marrow blood drive for the New York City Fire Department, which to this day, every academy class that goes through is shown a video and asked to sign up. And then it's almost a 100% sign up on the kids.”
Terry's legacy as the selfless and caring man he was was cemented on Sept. 11, 2001.
Terry hadn't been originally scheduled to work that day, and so many of his family members were unaware that he had switched his shifts and was working that Tuesday morning.
Brian learned of his brother's death when their other brother Dennis, the head of the Nassau County Homicide department, called with the life-changing news.
“It was devastating when I found out. I thought he was free and clear,” Brian said.
Brian, a retired police officer, hails all of those who went in to the World Trade Center that day to save whoever they could.
“These guys went in. They just went right in,” he said. “They knew they couldn't get that fire out.”
Terry’s funeral was held months after the attack in November 2001. Like many funerals of those who died that fateful day in New York City, people came from all over to pay their respects. The Petersons were among the mourners who made the trip to Long Island for a final farewell to Terry.
Chantyl, then 13, gathered her strength to give a reading at the funeral service for the man who saved her life.
“I felt his warmth, and just tried to prove that I can be as brave as he was,” she recalled. “I won't forget you and I will always love you forever.”
Soon after Terry’s passing, his family started the Terry Fund, which is run by his brother, Brian.
The Terry Fund has chapters across the country and they help provide gear, training and workers compensation, as well as scholarships each year. The organization also runs a blood and bone marrow program in Terry’s name and honor.
It's just one of the many ways in which Terry's legacy has been carried on.
"I'm very proud of Terry, but I'm more proud of his son, TJ, who is going to be the next Chief of the Dix Hills Fire Department," Brian said.
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