Matthew E. Byrne ’02 of Rockville Centre, NY, took his own life on August 24, 2014, after unsuccessfully battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression for several years.
The son of Edward T. ’72 and Patricia Mary Byrne, he prepared for college at Chaminade High School in Mineola, NY. Matt worked for many seasons as a member of the Jones Beach Lifeguard Corps on a barrier island off Long Island in New York. At Bowdoin, Byrne majored in government and was a four-year member of the swim team and Helmreich House.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 2001, Matt, then a senior at Bowdoin, decided to pursue a career as a firefighter in New York City. He joined the New York City Fire Department in 2006. Among other incidents during Matt’s time working for FDNY, he fought the seven-alarm Deutsche Bank fire in 2007 in which two firefighters died and another 155 were injured, and he had two children who had been run over by a motor vehicle die in his arms on a sidewalk in Chinatown, where he was stationed. As a result of these and other experiences as a firefighter, Matt developed PTSD and fought a deepening depression. Matt resigned from the New York City Fire Department in February of 2014, and began working on regaining control of his life. The love and emotional support of his family sustained him throughout this difficult time, but ultimately could not prevent Matt from taking his own life in a moment of hopelessness.
He is survived by his parents, Edward T. Byrne ’72 and Patricia Mary Byrne; his sisters, Elizabeth and Ann; his brothers, Paul and Thomas; his grandmother, Catherine Byrne; and uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and cousins.
On September 1, 2014, the Jones Beach Lifeguard Corps, family members, and friends celebrated Matt’s life and spirit in a paddle-out ceremony.