Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

RESPONSE TO TERROR

L.A.'s Firefighters Reach Out to Their New York Comrades

Response: LAFD gives $2.25 million to a Manhattan firehouse that lost 11 men Sept. 11.

November 18, 2001|JOHN J. GOLDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — Stressing that all firefighters are family, more than 120 members of the Los Angeles Fire Department presented a $2.25-million check Saturday to their New York counterparts in a ceremony marked by hugs, handshakes and a few tears.

The donation was made at a Manhattan firehouse that lost 11 of its members in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

"We represent the kids who had lemonade stands, who came to fire stations with their piggy banks, saying, 'Can you bring this back for us?' " said Capt. Stephen Ruda, a 24-year veteran of the LAFD.

"Our fellow firefighters here in New York suffered a great loss," he said. "What the firefighters did here in New York for the fire service in general brings to the attention, whether you work for a big city like Los Angeles or New York or a small volunteer company in the Midwest or the South or an organized company, we are ready to do the same."

The California contingent gathered on the sidewalk in front of the firehouse, its walls decorated with items from schoolchildren mourning the lost members of Engine 40 and Ladder 35.

Inside, firefighter Mike Kotula, who has served at the house for 19 years, stood quietly alongside one of the engines.

"It's overwhelming," Kotula said. "It means a lot, a real lot. It just shows we are all brothers throughout the country."

John Barnych, who has fought fires in New York for 11 years, said "it's difficult how to handle all this."

Barnych said seeing the children who were left behind has been especially straining. "One member had a really touching memorial video, and it was very hard to watch. It is very emotional for the kids, everybody."

To show their sympathy and solidarity, the Los Angeles firefighters plan to visit other firehouses, attend funerals and tour the World Trade Center site.

"It is something I felt I had to do because of that bond that we share with our brothers in New York," said firefighter Raul Miranda, who made the trip.

"To get the welcome we have received here in this city is absolutely incredible," said Wendy Cummings, an L.A. firefighter and paramedic. "All anyone wants to do is lend a hand to these families and make sure that they can get through this."

After the donation ceremony, the firefighters boarded buses for a church on the east side of Manhattan for the funeral of Fire Lt. Robert B. Nagel. While trapped under the rubble of the twin towers, Nagel asked over his radio for a roll call to try to be sure his men were safe. There was no fear in his voice.

"He was in the worst position of his life," firefighter Michael Fitzpatrick, who served with Nagel, said during a eulogy.

Referring to the firehouse that Nagel left behind after pulling on his boots that fateful Tuesday morning, Fitzpatrick added: "There was a pair of shoes left on the apparatus floor that morning that will never be filled."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|