Former New York City Fire Captain Reflects on 9/11

Mar 30, 2012

The keynote address of The University of Scranton’s 2011-2012 Education for Justice series “Finding Justice after 9/11” will feature Brenda Berkman, former New York City fire captain and director of Women First Responders of 9/11.

Berkman’s lecture on Wednesday, April 25, at 7 p.m. in the Moskovitz Theater at the DeNaples Center, is free and open to the public.

This academic year marks the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, a defining moment in the lives of Americans. Berkman, who served in the rescue effort at ground zero, was also at the forefront of breaking down the barriers that prevented women from serving in the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY).

In 1982, after Berkman won a federal sex discrimination lawsuit, the FDNY hired the city’s first women firefighters, which included her.

After 25 years with the FDNY, Berkman retired in 2006 with the rank of captain (only the third woman to achieve that rank). Throughout her career and after retirement, she has been active in firefighter recruitment and in pre-training programs. She was a founding member and former president of the United Women Firefighters, which promotes the interests and welfare of female FDNY firefighters, and held leadership positions in national women firefighters’ organizations.

In 1996-97, Berkman served as a White House Fellow, the first professional firefighter to be awarded this prestigious leadership development fellowship in the history of the program. She has spoken widely on women’s issues in the fire service, both in person and on radio and television, and has testified before a congressional committee about sexual harassment in the FDNY.

Berkman received numerous honors and awards throughout her career, including recognition from the New York Labor History Association in 2005. She has been profiled in several books and numerous articles. She was a featured participant in the PBS program “Sex, Power, and the Workplace” in 1992, and was among the women firefighters profiled in the 2006 PBS documentary “Taking the Heat.”

Also part of the Education for Justice series, “Taking the Heat” will be shown on Tuesday, April 17, at 7 p.m. in the Pearn Auditorium at Brennan Hall. A discussion following the film will be facilitated by Jean Harris, Ph.D., professor of political science at the University.

The Education for Justice Office promotes justice throughout The University of Scranton community through various programs, lectures and activities. The intent of the program is to educate students on the importance of justice, so they may act ethically when faced with justice themes in the future.

For additional information, contact Michael Allison, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, at 941-4051 or visit Education for Justice on the web at

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