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Crowley delivers gift to Woodside firemen

It was carved in New Mexico and delivered to Queens by way of Washington, but a wooden tribute to New York City firefighters found a permanent home Tuesday in the Rescue 4 firehouse, where the city’s Bravest have endured more than their share of losses.

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) presented Firefighters Dave Raynor and Paul Mendoza from the Woodside fire company with a wooden carving of a firefighter’s head, crafted by New Mexico artist Joe Carrothers to honor the sacrifice made by the FDNY in the World Trade Center disaster.

The firefighter depicted in the carving sports a thick brown mustache, the wide collar and lapel of a fireman’s jacket, and the signature helmet.

“It just goes to show the breadth of the sympathy this tragedy has brought about,” Crowley said while standing in front of the firehouse, where a banner draped along the front wall listed the names of the company’s firefighters lost Sept. 11.

Crowley also delivered a board covered with letters and cards composed by fourth-grade students at Los Ranchos Elementary School in Albuquerque, N.M.

The gesture resonated on levels both personal and national with Crowley, whose cousin John Moran, a battalion chief with the Fire Department, remained missing in the rubble of the World Trade Center.

U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson (R-New Mexico), whose Capitol Hill office is down the hall from Crowley’s, offered the carving to the Queens congressman when she learned of his personal loss in the Sept. 11 devastation.

For Crowley, who grew up in Woodside only blocks away from Rescue 4, there was no doubt about which firehouse should receive the cross-country gift.

“This has always been the firehouse I always think of,” Crowley said.

By coincidence the carving has the number 4 etched onto the helmet of the firefighter. The Rescue 4 company has endured some of the Fire Department’s greatest losses this year.

Firemen at the house had yet to recover from the deaths of Brian Fahey and Harry Ford — two from Rescue 4 who died in the Father’s Day fire in Astoria — when seven were lost in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

“When we lost Brian and Harry , the pain seemed to be so intense that how could it get worse?” Mendoza said. “It’s so overwhelming that you kind of go numb at this point.”

Lost in the most recent tragedy were Capt. Brian Hickey, Lt. Kevin Dowdell, and Firefighters Terry Farrell, Bill Mahoney, Pete Nelson, Durrell Pearsall and Pete Brennan.

The bodies of the seven Bravest have yet to be recovered because they were probably standing in the lower floors when the towers collapsed.

Aside from the emotional toll, the loss of seven firefighters from Rescue 4 represents a major blow to one of the city’s most elite companies, traditionally among the first to respond to any major fire in the city.

“There’ll be a lot of training involved,” said Raynor. “There was a lot of experience that was lost.”

The plaque will likely be mounted in the firehouse kitchen, because the space that had been set aside for such gifts is simply too cluttered to accommodate anything else.

“The wall’s not big enough anymore,” Raynor said.

Despite the depth of their sorrow, the firefighters maintained their signature enthusiasm for a job known to be one of the most difficult the city has to offer.

“This is the worst part of the job,” Mendoza said. “It’s still the greatest job in the world even though we have to go through times like this.”

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

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