By Kathy Chang East Brunswick Sentinel
Lt. Charles William Garbarini, one of the 343 New York City firefighters who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, will forever be remembered in Milltown.
One of the ways his legacy will live on is through a memorial scholarship that will be given out each year to two high school seniors who live in Milltown and plan to further their education.
Jonathan Napolitano, who graduated St. Joseph High School, Metuchen, and Erin Addone, who graduated Spotswood High School, are the first recipients of the Lt. Charles Garbarini Memorial Scholarship. Members of the Milltown Fire Department presented the two graduates with their $500 awards during the June 24 Borough Council meeting.
Milltown Fire Department Fire Chief John Bicsko said a committee of Milltown residents and educators reviewed the 11 applications that were submitted for the awards. The scholarship requirements include the completion of a comprehensive application with an essay discussing the connection between winning the scholarship and lessons learned from September 11. Students’ GPAs and extracurricular activities are also taken into account.
Napolitano, who plans to study environmental engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia this fall, said he received information about the scholarship from his guidance counselor.
“I wrote about how my father [Stephen] frequently visited the [twin] towers for work, and that day he was supposed to go there for work, but he didn’t,” he said. “I wrote about how that thought really got to me. … I don’t know what I would do if I lost my dad. I wrote about how important my dad is to me.”
Napolitano said he often thinks about all the heroes who risked their lives that day, and is honored to win an award in honor of one of those heroes.
Addone, 17, said she kept on checking with her guidance counselor for new scholarships.
“This one came up,” she said. “When reading about Lt. Garbarini’s risk to save lives on September 11 and that he would do anything for his family, I related that to my parents, as they would do anything for their family.”
Addone said winning the scholarship is a great way to give back to her parents, Margaret and Kenneth.
“It’s only $500, but it will go a long way. … It doesn’t matter how much; they care more about me and support me, and I am grateful for that,” she said.
Addone, who plans to attend the Rutgers Business School, said she didn’t think she would win the scholarship because she didn’t have a direct connection to the September 11 attacks.
“I was excited about being one of the first winners of the award,” she said. “It was nice receiving the certificate and plaque at the council meeting.”
In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, members of the Milltown Fire Department wanted to find a way to help a family that suffered a loss. New York Fire Department Lt. Gerard “Cookie” Sillcocks, a former Milltown resident, suggested that the Milltown department help the family of his deceased friend and colleague Lt. Charles Garbarini, a member of Engine 23, Battalion 9, who faithfully served New York City for over 15 years.
“So began a life-changing relationship with a family [of a man] who the members of the department are honored and proud to call one of our own,” Bicsko said.
In addition to initial fundraising efforts, the department has held a charitable golf outing in Garbarini’s memory each year since 2002, with the initial proceeds going to the family. Garbarini’s wife Andrea later asked that all proceeds be donated in Charles’ name to certain charities in the tri-state area. To date, more than $20,000 has been given to the Arthur C. Luf Children’s Burn Camp in Connecticut and Autism New Jersey.