Courage, Bravery and Sacrifice
Words of praise swirled around the slabs of granite like the flames of a growing fire. As they left the mouths of the speakers at the 2014 Fallen Firefighters Memorial ceremony, they seemed to ride the strong wind that was blowing that morning.
On October 7, the names of nine of our brother firefighters were added to the 2,381 names already carved into the memorial wall. Remarks were given by Lt. Governor Robert Duffy, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Mary Kavaney, state Sen. Kathleen Marchione and state Assemblyman Steven Englebright, each representing their respective branches of government. The colors were posted by the Albany Fire Department Color Guard and blessings were delivered by Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, the Rev. Gerald Buckley and FASNY’s own Chaplain Wayne Jagow. Once again, Firefighter Regina Wilson of the FDNY delivered a moving rendition of our National Anthem.
Yet, amidst all the ceremony, I found myself thinking about the words being used to describe firefighters. Courage. Bravery. Sacrifice. Perhaps they are appropriate words coming from a grateful public. They might even be uttered by firefighters when we think about our departed brothers and sisters. But when we think about ourselves they seem strangely out of place. In the end, our motivation to be firefighters is both noble and straightforward.
We put ourselves in harm’s way so that our friends, family and neighbors don’t have to be. It is said that a firefighter’s greatest act of bravery is the day they join the fire service. Everything after that is just doing our job. If we could speak to the 2,390 men and woman whose names are on that wall, I have a sense that they would feel the same way.
No words can take the pain of loss away or do justice to the memory of a firefighter who has made the ultimate sacrifice.
– John D’Alessandro, FASNY Deputy Volunteer Programs Coordinator
Bernard E. Bauman (August 27, 1952) joined the Laurelton Fire Department in 1939 and served his community for more than 14 years. On the morning of August 27, 1952, he made the ultimate sacrifice when attempting to rescue two workers overcome by gas fumes in a manhole. Despite using the best filter-type masks available at the time, Bernard and his partner succumbed to the lack of oxygen in the confined space.
Thomas J. Burley (June 18, 2013) was one of those people who made a lasting impression on the people who knew him. While in high school, he joined the Youngstown Volunteer Fire Company and after graduation joined the Air Force Reserves in 2011. Thomas was an individual who led by example and was committed to excellence. On June 18, 2013, at the age of 20, his life ended while returning from training.
Joseph P. “Joey D.” DiBernardo (November 22, 2011) wanted nothing more than to be a firefighter and follow in the footsteps of his father. In 1995, his dream was realized when he was appointed to the FDNY. On January 23, 2005, FDNY Rescue 3 responded to a Bronx tenement fire that would become known as Black Sunday. On that fateful day, six firefighters were forced to bail out from upper floors with two dying on impact and four being critically wounded. After saving the life of a fellow firefighter, Joey D. survived the fall, but broke almost every bone from the waist down. On November 22, 2011, at age 40, his many years of pain and rehabilitation came to an end.
John M. “Bear” Janos (April, 6, 2013) joined the Binghamton Fire Department in 1988. He quickly developed a reputation as the first to help and to always go above and beyond. In addition to serving as both president and secretary of Local 729, he was also involved in many charities, including the Retired Firefighters Cancer Fund. He answered his last call on April 6, 2013, after returning from an alarm activation in a multi-story building.
Timothy J. Lamere (August 21, 2012) joined the Constable Volunteer Fire Department in 2007 and it quickly became apparent that they had a future leader in their ranks. After a short tenure with the department, he was elected assistant chief. In that position, he was a hands-on leader who would never ask someone to do something that he wouldn’t do himself. On August 21, 2012, Timothy collapsed in his home after participating in a training exercise.
Matthew Porcari (January 22, 2013) followed the example set by his father and grandfather and became an apprentice firefighter in the Owego Fire Department at the age of 16. For most of his adult life, he served the Owego community with a level of dedication matched by very few in his department. Usually the first to respond to a call, Matthew perished while battling a mutual aid structure fire on January 22, 2013.
Antonio Rodriques (July 31, 2012) lived his entire life in and protected the city he loved, Yonkers. Dedicated to his brother and sister firefighters, he volunteered for the recovery efforts at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks. In fact, during his 12-year career, he was awarded six departmental commendations. Rodriques, also known as AROD, suffered a massive stroke following a training session injury on July 31, 2012.
Arthur E. Sink (August 27, 1952), with his partner Bernard Bauman, had no hesitation in putting his safety on the line while trying to help others. Joining the Laurelton Fire Department in 1925 as a charter member, he served with distinction for 27 years. On August 27, 1952, he lost his life while trying to rescue two sanitation workers trapped in a manhole.
Michael D. Sowich (March 2, 2007) joined the Sherill-Kenwood Volunteer Fire Department in 1991 and held the positions of fire marshal, lieutenant and EMT. Michael was a strong advocate for training and took many courses at the New York State Fire Academy. His dedication resulted in him being named “Firefighter of the Year” in 1996, “Training Officer” in 1997 and ultimately becoming a New York State fire instructor. Shortly after joining the New Hartford Fire Department, he passed away unexpectedly on March 2, 2007, while attending training at the National Fire Academy.