Daniel Heglund was born on September 23, 1955. His parents were devoted to the Salvation Army and inspired Dan’s altruistic tendencies. Growing up in Centerport, New York, Dan joined the volunteer fire department and was dedicated to helping his community. Dan married Arlene in August 1986 and was blessed with the birth of his daughter, Amanda, in November 1987 and son, Sam, in July 1990. In 1993, the family moved to Rocky Point, New York, where Dan joined the volunteer fire department. Amanda and Sam brightened Dan’s life, and he adored them.
Dan became a NYC firefighter in September 1982 and was detailed to Engine 75, later transferring to Ladder 33. E75 & L33 were both housed on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, affectionately referred to as “the Animal House.” In 1993, Dan transferred to Rescue 4 in Queens. During his time in both houses, he experienced great camaraderie and achieved his goal of making a difference in peoples’ lives. He received a chest full of metals but never talked about them, attempting to spare his family the worry of how dangerous his job was. They knew and always worried, especially on September 11, 2001.
On that day, Dan was working light duty at Rescue 3, having been injured at a previous fire. He finished his tour and was heading home when he received a call from Arlene telling him a plane crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. Dan turned around and headed to Special Operations Command, where he jumped into a van with other responding firefighters and raced to the scene. The South Tower came down while they were en route, and the North Tower came down just as they arrived. As they ran to the towers, all they saw were piles of burning, twisted, smoking mounts and flattened fire and rescue rigs.
Dan began searching for survivors, which soon became a recovery mission that lasted eight months, and Dan spent every tour digging. Leave no man behind is the firefighters’ creed, and during those long months they lived by it. All the firefighters on duty from Rescue 3 that Dan left that morning perished, as well as all his brothers on duty from Rescue 4.
Dan was diagnosed with World Trade Center related cancer in October 2012. He suffered for two years, fighting to live. He died peacefully at home in the arms of Arlene, Amanda, and Sam.
Dan was a proud firefighter. He helped everyone in need, on and off duty. He saved lives. Dan is missed every minute of every day.