White FDNY lieutenant in iconic 9/11 photo files discrimination claim

Lt. Daniel McWilliams filed the equal employment opportunity complaint after he appeared as part of a ceremonial unit at a memorial service


By Rocco Parascandola
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — AN FDNY lieutenant immortalized in a photo at Ground Zero has filed a complaint against the head of the fraternal group representing black firefighters, sources told the Daily News.

Lt. Daniel McWilliams, who is white, filed the equal employment opportunity complaint after he appeared as part of the ceremonial unit at a memorial service Nov. 19.

(From l.) Brooklyn firefighters George Johnson, Dan McWilliams and Billy Eisengrein raise a flag at the remains of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 in this memorable photo. (Photo/Thomas Franklin/The Record via AP)
(From l.) Brooklyn firefighters George Johnson, Dan McWilliams and Billy Eisengrein raise a flag at the remains of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 in this memorable photo. (Photo/Thomas Franklin/The Record via AP)

McWilliams was one of two white members of the six-person ceremonial crew that day. He did not particpate in the service, sources said, and later complained about Vulcan President Regina Wilson.

It was not clear what McWilliams and Wilson did or said to prompt the disagreement.

The FDNY confirmed that a complaint had been filed but would not discuss it further.

"The matter is under investigation," said Jim Long, a FDNY spokesman.

Wilson, meanwhile, said she has yet to be interviewed by FDNY investigators and was not aware of the complaint until notified by The News.

"I'm unaware of any complaint made against me. I have not been contacted by anyone in the Fire Department,” said Wilson, the first woman to head the society.

"But if this does get brought to my attention I would be more than happy to discuss what really occurred with the FDNY,” she added.

McWilliams, a 27-year veteran, is assigned to Ladder 103 in East New York.

The 51-year-old lieutenant could not be reached for comment Thursday at the firehouse or his home on Long Island.

Hours after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attack at the Twin Towers, McWilliams took an American flag from a yacht docked at the Hudson River and, with firefighters George Johnson and Billy Eisengrein, ran it up a flagpole at Ground Zero.

A photographer captured the moment, and the enduring image is now considered one of the iconic images in U.S. history.

It appeared on the cover of Newsweek, a commemorative coin and a U.S. stamp.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency raised about $10 million through the stamp.

The Vulca n Society has been pushing for a more diversified FDNY.

In 2014, the department agreed to pay $98 million to settle a lawsuit charging discrimination against blacks and Hispanics applying to become firefighters.

It also agreed to revamp its hiring practices, and in November the department said a record number — 46.305 — took the test to become a firefighter. A majority of them — 26,018, or 56% — were people of color.

Wilson at the time noted that despite a $10 million recruitment campaign far too many people who took signed up for the test ultimately did not take it.

Copyright 2018 New York Daily News

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