Remembering Firefighter Robert Beddia, who died 7 years ago Monday in ‘toxic inferno’ at Deutsche Bank building

By Joe Vitale Staten Island Advance

FF Robert Beddia

FF Robert Beddia

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Robert Beddia, the Staten Island FDNY member who died while fighting a fire in Manhattan, is gone — but certainly not forgotten.

Monday marks seven years since Beddia, 53, lost his life battling a blaze in the old Deutsche Bank building near Ground Zero.

The Aug. 18, 2007, fire also took the life of a Brooklyn firefighter, Joseph Graffagnino. More than 40 others were hurt.

Born on Staten Island, Beddia grew up in Rosebank and West Brighton. He graduated from Port Richmond High School and later settled in South Beach, where he lived for more than 20 years.

He had worked for the FDNY for more than 20 years before he died.

Fellow firefighters, friends, and family remembered him for his infectious passion for his job.

“He was part of something. I think that’s the way to describe it,” recalled Ed Carman, Beddia’s half-brother. “The Fire Department was his life.”

When Beddia was not working in Manhattan, he enjoyed golfing and working on his 1983 Alfa Romeo limited-edition convertible.

He was also an active community member who was beloved by many residents in his South Beach neighborhood.

An Advance report shortly after his death documented family member testimonies recalling that Beddia was haunted by the 9/11 attacks, to which he responded despite his being off-duty on that September morning.

Beddia also contributed to Ground Zero recovery efforts in the following months.

“It’s like he went full circle,” said Roberta Venturino, Beddia’s neighbor on Andrews Street. “He survived 9/11, went back there and got killed,” Venturino said, referring to the former Deutsche Bank site, located at 130 Liberty St.

Just a stone’s throw from Ground Zero, the building fire — and the two deaths it caused — sparked a heated debate about the building’s condition as well as the conditions of neighboring buildings following September 11. (The Advance called it a “toxic inferno.”)

An effort led by NYC prosecutors to hold someone responsible for the two deaths, however, fell short in 2011 when a judge acquitted a construction contractor of manslaughter and other charges. The judge said the company was guilty only of a misdemeanor.

Beddia’s funeral, amid much of the controversially [sic], was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. While solemn, many of those present spoke highly of Beddia and remembered him for his bravery, conviction, and love.

“We can talk about how he rescued different people. He loved to walk around Greenwich Village, he was called the mayor of Greenwich,” Monsignor John Delendick, the chaplain of the FDNY said during the service.

“This was his neighborhood. He protected his people.”

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