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Memorial honors work of Bayside hero fireman

As he led a memorial mass honoring the life of William Krukowski, a Bayside firefighter missing in the rubble of the World Trade Center, Rev. Thomas Michalski had to revise the wisdom of Shakespeare to capture the spirit of his subject.

Denying Mark Anthony’s assertion that “the evil that men do lives after them, but the good is oft interred with their bones,” Michalski held aloft the rich memory of Krukowski’s heroic deeds as his example.

“The good we do is not interred with our bones,” Michalski insisted. “Good acts are like rays of the gun — they give life, they give happiness. We joyfully assert that the good that Firefighter William Krukowski did lives after him.”

For proof he had only to stare at the pews of St. Josephat’s Church in Bayside, where family, friends, fellow firefighters and complete strangers gathered Saturday morning to say goodbye to a man who by all accounts epitomized goodness — and left remnants of it after his death.

“Bill was a quiet, hardworking guy who believed in the goodness of people,” his godfather, William Gassman, said in his eulogy.

Krukowski was only one of two Bayside heroes lost in the World Trade Center to be honored at services Saturday. Ricardo Quinn, a 40-year-old EMS paramedic and father of three who died after rushing to the scene of the disaster, was laid to rest after a service at Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament Church.

Krukowski, a 34-year-old firefighter who had only recently completed his two-year probation in the department, was among seven men from Ladder Co. 21 on 38th Street in Manhattan missing in the rubble of the World Trade Center.

When Mayor Rudy Giuliani stood at the pulpit at the end of the mass, he turned to the firefighter’s young son, William, to explain the meaning of his firefighter’s sacrifice.

“Your dad didn’t die in vain, he didn’t die for nothing,” Giuliani said. “He died because he assisted in saving more lives than have ever been saved in the history of the city.”

While most speakers recalled with fondness the goodness that characterized Krukowski’s life, his father Walter described a son whose flair for mechanics had left its own mark — from the tree house he built but never finished in his parents’ Connecticut home, to the cars he would dissect and then reassemble with ease.

“Bill always said, ‘Take the high road,’” Walter Krukowski said, recalling his son’s advice to people when they encountered a difficult situation. “He followed his own advice — he took the high road straight to heaven.”

Krukowski would ordinarily travel the 17 miles between his Bayside home and the Manhattan firehouse by bicycle, where one firefighter said he displayed a mastery of machinery his colleagues admired.

“He was very knowledgeable about all facets of the equipment that we use,” said Firefighter Clinton Schmitterer, a 21-year veteran stationed at Ladder Company 21.

Krukowski, who served in the U.S. Marines, had attended Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament School, Holy Cross High School and Nassau Community College. He leaves a wife, Lisa, in addition to his son William, his parents and a sister.

For the more than 100 firefighters who attended the service, the tribute was marred only by the Fire Department’s inability to offer a goodbye of the same magnitude that would be typical in less trying times.

“We don’t bury guys like this,” said Joseph Tierney, a retired 23-year veteran of the force who never expected to wear his uniform again but did so at the request of the department struggling with the loss of more than 300 members.

“When we bury guys, 10,000 guys show up.”

While over 300 firefighters were missing in the rubble of the Twin Towers, Quinn was one of only eight paramedics and EMTs who did not return alive after running into the buildings.

Quinn’s wife, Ginny, said her husband, who was supposed to have been at Elmhurst Hospital Tuesday but rushed instead into Lower Manhattan, disappeared after sprinting into Tower 2 to help retrieve victims, The New York Times reported.

Quinn leaves behind three children in addition to his wife.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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