His older brother, Thomas, was a ferry captain for the Circle Line company. During the terrorist attacks on September 11, Phelan took hundreds of firefighters to Ground Zero, and saved hundreds of people fleeing Lower Manhattan.
He was inspired to become a member of New York’s Bravest. In 2003, he joined the FDNY, and later served in the marine division.
Thomas Phelan lived until he was 45 years old. After completing the New York City marathon in under four hours, he was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2018. Family members believe it was related to his exposure to toxins at Ground Zero.
Three months later, he passed away. Last week, Chris spoke about his brother at a 9/11 remembrance service at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
“It means everything to us,” he said about the ceremony. “Tom really wouldn’t want a lot of big fanfare, but to us, it just shows how important he was.
Phelan recalled that after their father passed away in 2011, his brother became the head of the household, and looked after their mother.
“It’s a big loss to us, but seeing all this shows how important he was,” he said. “All these 9/11 events really show how many lives Thomas touched.”
Chris, who is a police officer, will remember his older brother as a “Brooklyn kid.” He was born and raised in Sunset Park and passed away in Brooklyn.
“He’s interred at Green-Wood Cemetery,” Phelan said.
The Phelan family will continue to honor Thomas on October 12, when they will help rename a Sunset Park street after him.
“Everybody that knows him knows he would never, ever want to leave Brooklyn,” Phelan said.