By Sarah Dorsey Chief-Leader
As more than 6,000 firefighters and Emergency Medical Service workers in blue dress uniforms filed past during the annual FDNY Memorial Service Oct. 9, many family members were stoic. Others cried softly; one became so distraught later that Mayor Bloomberg embraced her and then talked quietly with her while she continued to sob.
The families were gathered by the Firemen’s Memorial on the Upper West Side to remember their loved ones who died in the last year while working for the Fire Department. Three of those who died were fatally sickened by their work at the World Trade Center after September 11.
Signal Event for FDNY
The annual service overlooking Riverside Park is typically the department’s biggest event of the year, drawing more off-duty participants than the September 11 memorial at the same location.
That remained true this year, with rows of marchers three and four deep filing past the families in a formal review for perhaps 15 minutes before their numbers were exhausted. The Mayor, the Fire Commissioner, and the department’s highest officials stood with the families during the procession as the Emerald Society Pipes and Drums band played. All the major union leaders were there, including Uniformed Firefighters Association President Stephen Cassidy, Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Alexander Hagan, and the two EMS union presidents, Israel Miranda, representing Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics, and Vincent Variale, who heads the officers union.
They listened while a bell was tolled for each of the 10 people who died. Wreaths were laid for the emergency medical and fire divisions, and the families were given white carnations and certificates thanking them for their loved one’s service.
‘Proud He Served’
“If he would be here today he would be proud, and we’re proud of him, too. He did a good job; excellent son, excellent husband with my in-law and great father, too,” said Eladio Lamboy Sr. of his son, Emergency Medical Technician Eladio Lamboy-Torres, who died April 18. “He was very happy, very proud of being part of the Fire Department…He liked to be active, he liked to help the community and he also liked to save lives.”
EMT Chad Hannon had attended several Memorial Day events before, but this was the first time he knew any of the deceased. He’d been friends with EMT Alan B. Guss for 15 years, since before he joined the department, and after working with him, later served alongside EMT Bernard (Brian) M. Nolan.
“You know, it hits a little closer to home and you begin to appreciate it a little more,” he said of the experience this year. He and several colleagues clustered around their friends’ families after the procession. Mr. Hannon added that he thought the event provided a helpful reminder to the families.
“It lets them know that they’re not alone,” he said. “They have the job and the members in the stations—even long after the worst part is over, if they ever need anything they know our phones are on.”
This year’s ceremony carried an added sense of finality, being the last one that Mr. Bloomberg—and possibly Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano—will preside over.
It also marked the centennial of the Firemen’s Memorial itself, a bronze bas-relief of horses drawing a truck to a fire flanked by two marble sculptures representing duty and sacrifice. An inscription refers to firefighters as “soldiers in a war that never ends.”
Commissioner Cassano, recalling the many times he’d attended memorials there during his decades-long career, noted that the Fire Department didn’t commission the monument.
“I’m humbled because [the money didn’t come] from the department. It came from the grateful people of the city that we served,” he said. “…For five years, so many New Yorkers worked hard to make it a reality, donating their time, efforts and money to pay tribute to our department. Donations to fund the construction came in from across the city, some as little as 50 cents.” (That’s about $11 in today’s currency.)
The EMS division was hit especially hard this year, with eight of the deceased hailing from their ranks. Among them were EMTs Guss of Station 43, Michael C. Castellano of Station 58, Joseph Schiumo of Station 20, Mr. Lamboy-Torres of Station 22, Mr. Nolan of Station 40, Thomas S. Loggins of Station 4, and Ronald T. Coyne of Station 38; and Paramedic Ruben I. Berrios of Station 20. The department also lost Fire Marshal Martin J. McHale of Brooklyn Base and Firefighter Charles L. Jones III of Ladder 165. According to department officials, Mr. Schiumo, Mr. Berrios and Mr. Jones died from illnesses they contracted from their relief efforts on September 11 and in the weeks after.