Honoring our fallen heroes - JuniperCivic.com
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Originally published in the September 2002 Juniper Berry Magazine

Honoring our fallen heroes

The New York City Council will be passing a Local Law Intro. 252A to pay tribute to the fallen heroes of September 11th by renaming one of our local streets in each of their honor. This measure was introduced to ease the suffering of family and friends, and honor the Fire Fighters, police, and E.M.T.s who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedom.

The Council will also be adding street signs in honor of fallen victims of September 11th in the near future. One of the Prime Sponsors of Intro. # 225a is Middle Village Councilman Dennis P. Gallagher who stated, "This small measure is the least we can do to honor all the victims of the cowardly terrorist attacks of September 11th. I am honored and privileged to be introducing this legislation. I look forward to introducing additional legislation to honor each and every victim who called our community home."

Here is a list of the streets being proposed in the current Legislation:

"Lt. Kevin Pfeifer Place"

79th Place between Furmanville Ave. between Juniper Valley Road.

To the casual acquaintance, Kevin Pfeifer had a manner, a quiet, thoughtful demeanor, that seemed influenced by all the philosophy courses he took at Marist College. His gift for abstractions, though, was far exceeded by his taste for the concrete and adventure. He learned to fly, and logged 400 hours of flying time. He learned to sail, and loved to bring his friends out to race the tankers around Sandy Hook or take his nieces and nephews out on Jamaica Bay. He loved to drive, and managed to sneak onto the secure grounds at Kennedy Airport, where he sped along a runway. Mr. Pfeifer, 42, shouted with his life, not with his mouth. Growing up in Middle Village, Queens, and spending many summer days in Breezy Point, he developed a close circle of friends who ate at Beefsteak Charlie's and joined him for his capers on the ground, at sea, in the air. He knew that fun was where you made it: he organized a legendary bash at an abandoned missile silo near Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.

In Mr. Pfeifer's work as a city paramedic and later as a fire lieutenant, he had a knack for quietly bringing out the best in people, his brother Joseph said. Joseph Pfeifer was among the first battalion chiefs at the trade center on Sept. 11. He spotted his brother coming in with Engine Company 33, and the two Pfeifers exchanged a quick word, and then glances as they parted.

"Fire Fighter John J. Florio Place"

77th Place bet. Eliot Ave.& Juniper Valley Rd.

If it was 6 a.m. and Metallica was blasting from the basement of Engine Company 214 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, it meant that John J. Florio was down there pumping iron.

Mr. Florio, 33, was an athlete, built like a box of bricks, the kind of man who made starting halfback the first year he tried out for the Fire Department football team. He played baseball for Our Lady of Hope grammar school and attended St. Francis Prep H.S. He was the metal head of his Brooklyn firehouse, an electric presence in a place that was already called "The Nuthouse."

"He would have been in charge of the mosh pit if we had one," said Roddy Richards, a colleague and a friend.

Mr. Richards said one of Mr. Florio's oldest buddies once stopped by the firehouse and joked that Mr. Florio had been an A- student in the fourth grade – until the teacher moved the smart girl away from him. But John J. Florio cared about other things, like his wife, Shari, and his children, Michael and Kylie.

Then there was his beloved Metallica. The night that the men of Engine 214 found Mr. Florio's body, someone called to say, turn on the radio. They did and they caught the opening riff of a Metallica song. Mr. Richards knew it was a message. "We were all like, 'O.K., John.' "

"Capt. Patrick Waters Road"

69th Road between 75th Street and 73rd Pl.

You knew that Patrick Waters was on duty if there was a phenomenal amount of coffee brewing in the firehouse kitchen. Captain Waters always seemed to have a cup of the stuff in his hand.

He was what firemen call "a good fireman," graceful under pressure, passionate about the job and everything it entails-from battling flames to filing reports (his were always spelled correctly). In 1998, he was on duty at Ladder Company 106 in Queens when the India Street pier collapsed, hurling eight people into the turbulent East River. There was no time to don protective gear; Captain Waters, whose father, Patrick, taught him to swim at the Jersey shore, jumped in and kept a woman afloat until she could be hauled in safely. "That was a great day," remembered Lt. Mike Kenney, a friend, who still has a picture of Captain Waters, soaked and freezing. "Eight people went home to their families that day."

Off duty, Captain Waters coached his sons, Daniel 11 and Christopher 15, in basketball at Sacred Heart Church, and hockey with 104th Precinct, and also ran their school PTA. On Sept. 11, he was at the Fire Department's medical office, having a routine physical with four firefighters from his hazardous-materials unit, when they heard about the attack. They ran out the door and over the Brooklyn Bridge to the trade center.

"I've never met anybody who loved going to work as much as he did," said his wife, Janice. The coffee was only part of it.

"Fire Fighter Scott A. Larsen Blvd." Woodhaven Blvd. Bet. 83rd Ave & Myrtle Ave.

When Scott A. Larsen finished a shift at the firehouse – "He was very good with the tools; he fit right into the place," said Brian Cleary, his friend from Ladder Company 163 – off he'd go in pursuit of more activity, usually with his three children. He outfitted them with Rollerblades, and got them onto their bicycles on summer days. He could spend an entire day at the beach, then fix dinner on the grill. During the midwinter school break, he packed everyone into the car and drove from their home in Glendale, Queens, to Disney World, stopping to spend the night in North Carolina, to buy sparklers in South Carolina, to sample as many Dairy Queens as possible below the Mason-Dixon line. It meant 12 hours of driving at a stretch, but he loved it. On arrival, Firefighter Larsen, who was 35, headed for Space Mountain, where he usually rode solo. "He'd try to convince the kids to go on it," said his wife, Carolann. "Once he bribed them with a stuffed animal. They came off scared like anything."

The children are Marisa, 9; Brenda, 8; and Scott, 5. On Sept. 13, their little brother was born. Mrs. Larsen named him August, a name she and her husband had chosen.

"Fire Fighter John Heffernan Street" – 78th Street between Eliot Ave. and 62 Ave.

Mary Heffernan's spirit just left her on the day of the attacks. One of her sons, John Heffernan, 37, a firefighter on the Lower East Side, was missing at the World Trade Center. Five years earlier, her son Patrick had died in a construction accident.

Another son, Michael Heffernan, 36, also a firefighter, looked for his big brother. He searched for weeks. Their sister, Deirdre Heffernan, 32, stayed with their 73-year-old mother. A fourth brother, Brian, 34, is a New York City police officer.

John Heffernan was a man with many sides. One moment, he was in a firefighter's uniform, rushing into burning buildings to save lives at the risk of his own. In the next, he was on stage in a black T-shirt and jeans, playing rhythm guitar in a punk rock band, the Bullys, that he helped found. In another, he was a devoted husband to his wife, Lori, and a devoted father to his 9-year-old daughter, Samantha.

A crew sifting through the wreckage at ground zero discovered John Heffernan's body on Oct. 2, his wife's 31st birthday, Deirdre Heffernan said.

"Fire Fighter Vincent S. Morello Street" – 81st Street between 62 Ave. and 63rd Ave.

Vincent S. Morello, 34, of New York City, a firefighter with the New York Fire Department, was lost on September 11 in the World Trade Center. He came from a family of firefighters (His father, John, is a retired fire chief, his brother, Marc, is also a firefighter). He was married to Debi and father to Justin,7 and Paige, 5.

A memorial was held on November 2 in Middle Village. He was a wonderful friend and family man. In 2000, Vincent gave up a job for the FDNY as a mechanic, taking a 50 percent pay cut, to fulfill his dream of riding the truck, instead of fixing it. He will be missed.

One weekend every summer, the commissioner of the Male Bonding Association would lead eight buddies to the Hamptons – but what happened there remained a mystery. His rules: No guy could call his wife. No guy could mention his wife. If a wife asked what the husbands did, the guy had to reply, "I can't tell you."

Each year the rules became sillier, in direct proportion to the commissioner's happy descent into family life. Debi Morello, his wife, never worried about those weekends. That's because Vincent Morello, 34, a firefighter with Ladder Company 35 in Manhattan and the son of a retired battalion chief, would still surprise her throughout the year with flowers, candles and wine for no other reason than love. And he kept everything around the house in fine order: he was great with his hands, especially when cooking holiday meals for the family. Funny thing, though: the first time he held his son, Justin, he was awkward and fumbling. He wanted so badly to be a good father that he never seemed to let go of the baby, now 8. By the time Paige, now 6, was born, Mr. Morello was more than ready. While Paige wrapped her father around her finger, the commissioner's Hamptons rules grew sillier still.

"Lt. Michael P. Worchola Way" – 84th Place between Furmanville Ave. & 64th Rd.

When Lt. Michael Warchola was a child his grandmother brought British tabloid newspapers into the house. Paging through the tales of three-headed babies and ichthyologic anthropomorphism, he developed a passion for reading and a flair for the bizarre.

As a teenager he attended Stuyvesant H.S. and was a Golden Gloves boxer who fought under the name Mike "War Hawk" Warchola. He also attended the University of Buffalo.

He parlayed his appetite for books into a teaching certificate, and he joined the New York Fire Department in 1977, after five years on the waiting list. "It was dangerous, but it was a good job," said his father, Michael Warchola. It also helped pay for his trips to the strange and historical sites he read about.

As he neared retirement, Lieutenant Warchola, 51, who was divorced, devoted more time to tending his garden at his home in Middle Village, Queens, where he made elaborate drawings of Venus flytraps, but he kept a Godzilla poster on his wall.

The attack of Sept. 11 spread his name around the world, as it did those of many other victims. One who noticed the name was Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda of Slovakia, and when he came here recently to run in the New York Marathon, he sought out Lieutenant Warchola's older brother Denis, who was only vaguely aware of the family's central European ancestry. Mr. Dzurinda took home a picture of Lieutenant Warchola and held it aloft during a television appearance.

"Everybody in the country saw my brother's picture," Denis Warchola said.

His brother, a retired firefighter himself, had a chance for the most intimate of farewells. After his brother was dead, "I got to put my hands on my brother's arm."

He was completing his last 24-hour tour on Sept. 11th before retiring. Two children; Aaron 20, and Amy 17 survive him.

"Fire Fighter Michael Weinberg Way" – Eliot Ave. between 71st Street and 74th St.

Michael Weinberg was relaxing on vacation, just a few minutes from tee time, when he got news the World Trade Center – where his sister worked – had been hit by an airliner.

Weinberg sped toward the city; both worried about his sister on the 72nd floor and called to duty professionally. Weinberg, 34, was a New York City firefighter.

"He always did the right thing," said his father, Morty. "He was there to be helpful."

Weinberg, from Maspeth in Queens, drove to the station house, and then went to the Twin Towers with Fire Department chaplain Rev. Mychal Judge and Capt. Daniel Brethel, his father said. As the towers collapsed, Weinberg and Brethel tried to find shelter under a fire truck.

Weinberg's family was told he died instantly. His sister, Patricia Gambino, escaped before the building's collapse.

Weinberg was a talented athlete who attended St. John's University on a baseball scholarship and played minor league baseball with Detroit Tigers farm teams in Niagara Falls and Fayetteville, N.C. He was a lifeguard, personal trainer and gifted golfer who considered someday joining the senior pro tour, his father said.

Still, he loved being a firefighter, his father said. "He liked the action, the camaraderie. He liked everything about it."

Many of the young men Weinberg grew up with in the neighborhood joined the department too. Many are now missing.

"There's so many guys like him who lost their lives," his father said, adding he was lucky enough to get his son's body back.

"It's unbelievable. I can't get over it. I never will."

"E.M.T. David Marc Sullins Place"

66th Place bet. Myrtle Ave. & Central Ave.

David Marc Sullins was a used car salesman, and for fun, he liked tooling around on motorcycles with a bunch of friends who called themselves the Lost Boyz, after the characters in "Peter Pan," the ones who never wanted to grow up. By 1995, though, David Marc Sullins thought he ought to do more with his life. So he signed up for night school at Queensborough Community College and at the age of 24 began a new chapter as a paramedic, said his wife, Evelyn. The work was strenuous but worth it, Mr. Sullins told his wife, who recalls that he was soon packing Matchbox cars and Barbie figurines in his trauma bag to calm the children in his care. One 5-year-old whom he had brought to St. Vincent's with stomach pains was so enamored that when she spotted him later at the hospital, she handed him a lollipop from her pocket.

Another fringe benefit was his ability to work double shifts on Mondays and Tuesdays so that he could have the next three days and alternate weekends off to be with his sons Julian, 4, and Christian, nearly 2. On Sept. 11, Mr. Sullins's ambulance sped from Cabrini Medical Center to the trade center. Colleagues say he made at least three trips to local hospitals with injured people he had pulled from the buildings before he re-entered the south tower moments before its collapse.

" Lt. Steven J. Bates Street"

74th St. between 78th Ave. and Myrtle Ave.

Although Stephen J. Bates liked the solitude of athletic competitions like running, swimming and bicycling, he was a team player. Period. That was why he worked for 18 years as a New York City firefighter. The lieutenant liked the way firefighters relied on one another while sticking to their vows to save lives and put out fires.

Most of all, Lieutenant Bates liked the automatic brotherhood of the job. It gave him the family he always wanted. His mother died when he was 15, and he was estranged from his father, said his girlfriend, Joan Puwalski. He frequently took family- style dinners with the firefighters at his stationhouse, Engine Company 235 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. He liked cooking family dinners for the gang; sauerbraten was his best dish.

The other members of his family were two big dogs who lived in the home that he shared with Ms. Puwalski in Glendale, Queens: Samantha, 8, a 105-pound yellow Labrador retriever, and Norton, 8, an 85- pound mutt. "He called them his babies," Ms. Puwalski said. "Sometimes the four of us would sleep together in our queen-size bed." That was a squeeze, considering that Lieutenant Bates, 42, was a big man, standing exactly 6 feet and weighing 235 pounds.

The following street was submitted by Councilwoman Melinda Katz

Kenneth Phelan Way

69th Lane between Eliot Ave. and 60th St.

From an early age, Kenny Phelan looked out for other people. He took the children in the neighborhood no one else wanted to coach and turned them into a basketball team.

"He said, `Well, now these kids have somewhere to play,' " said his younger brother, Lenard. When the two of them became police officers in Manhattan, Kenny would drive by to see how Lenny, on foot patrol, was doing.

Their father, a retired firefighter, was proud when his sons joined the Fire Department. Kenny Phelan, who was 41, asked for his father's old firehouse, Engine Company 217 in Brooklyn, when he was promoted to lieutenant. Off duty, he led his four children — Kimberly, Erin, Danny and Kenny — on family outings to Walt Disney World and taught them sports. Now one of his sons plays third base and is known as "the Vacuum." Nothing gets past him.

Lieutenant Phelan and his wife, Patty, met as teenagers. Neither of them ever dated anyone else, and he was never without his wedding ring, which she still hopes will turn up. For their first date, he asked her to a Mets game. On the way there, she lost a contact lens. An old lady came out of her house, found it, and invited them in for Cokes. They made it to the game, and the Mets won. "I guess I won, too," Mrs. Phelan said. "People looked at us and it was always Kenny and Patty. I hope my children will have that, and I hope whoever didn't have that will have it in the future, because life is empty without it."