A dozen firefighters honored in Rosedale

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At dozens of funerals and memorial services held in the borough since Sept. 11, lost firefighters and other rescue personnel have been remembered as heroes who sacrificed their own lives to save others.

But after two months of mourning, one Rosedale congregation decided to invert the order of their praise.

“When someone is alive, that is when we need to honor you,” Pastor Derida DeFlorimonte told a small group of firefighters and rescue personnel who gathered Sunday at the hall of American Legion Post 483 for a service in their honor.

The front three rows were filled with about a dozen firefighters who were all too familiar with rites of mourning, having attended one service after another to bid farewell to colleagues whom they often had never met.

Across the aisle sat five war veterans from the Legion, their silver hair giving some indication of how much time had elapsed since they stood on the front lines of war.

The bittersweet service praised the firefighters for their dedication, bringing the rescuers together with the neighbors who before may not have noticed the person beyond the imposing uniform and rugged demeanor.

“The outpouring from the community has been outstanding,” said Lt. Michael Dulko of Engine Co. 314, one of three local companies invited to the service. “We’re noticing people have been more friendly, more outgoing. We feel like we’re appreciated much more.”

In a service where community and spiritual leaders’ remarks were interspersed among songs and prayers, the reflections offered a composite sketch of how life has changed for many of those present since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Edgar Grove, who spoke as a representative of state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans), said he was scheduled to attend a breakfast at Windows on the World the morning of the attack.

He ended up deciding not to go because of obligations for the primary election.

Neighbors offered their own examples of enduring the hardship of war.

“I went through Desert Storm with three of my family members, and I was on pins and needles until it was over,” said Linnette Douglas of the 149th Avenue Block Association. “I understand and I sympathize with you all, but we have to keep on going.”

One minister who spoke said he used to think “anyone who wanted to be a fireman had to be very crazy.” But since Sept. 11, he has come to understand that their jobs mean much more than simply running into burning buildings.

“It’s serving a community, it’s saving people’s lives,” he said.

In his sermon, Pastor Carl DeFlorimonte repeated what a friend told him he had seen as he fled the upper stories of the World Trade Center down a stairwell.

“While they were passing us, they were waving at us — as if to say bye,” his friend said of the firefighters who were climbing the towers.

Although the veterans in attendance remembered a much different sort of wartime devastation, they also had their own tales of fighting America’s current battle, which they shared as firefighters, veterans and neighbors mingled after the service.

Dave Klein, a veteran of the old Army Airforce, said he spent a year helping to construct the World Trade Center as an electrician. At the time, he was not especially fond of the architecture.

“It reminded me of two tombstones. I didn’t realize what would happen 30 years later,” he said.

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

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