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Mets boost Bravest spirits, adopt firehouse in Maspeth

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On Sept. 16, a crowd of thousands gathered around the Maspeth firehouse of Haz Mat 1 and Squad 288 in a tribute to the 19 men both companies lost at the World Trade Center.

Three months later, the surviving firefighters are still recovering from the devastation, but their healing has progressed with the encouragement of a community that has vowed not to forget them.

“The community has been absolutely super — just for keeping our heads in the right direction,” Capt. Steve Bacci said last Thursday in an interview after accepting a donation at a Maspeth Lions Club meeting.

The offers of help are coming from all over. Artwork and letters sent from schoolchildren across the country have been hung on available wall space around the firehouse.

“It’s kept our morale up and it’s helped us,” Bacci said.

The firehouse has received an additional boost from the Mets baseball franchise, which adopted the firefighters and their families after receiving a message from a nearby Maspeth resident who wanted the local Bravest to have more recognition.

“We just wanted to let them know that we cared what happened and we’d be there for them this year and next year and forever,” said Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz.

The Amazin’s have already sponsored a handful of events for the firefighters and the families of the lost men — Christmas parties at Shea Stadium and at Mets Manager Bobby Valentine’s restaurant, a Planet Hollywood movie screening, and a bowling tournament.

“He wrapped the presents himself,” Bacci said of Valentine. “He’s a terrific human being.”

The Maspeth Lions Club invited Bacci and a handful of firefighters to their meeting last Thursday to present them with two checks totaling more than $2,500 made out directly to the fire companies.

“We wanted to make sure it got into their hands,” said Tom Mannion, the vice president of the Lions Club in Brisbane, Calif., which raised $1,900 for the firefighters by holding a barbecue fund-raiser.

“We wanted to give that number because we knew the firehouse here in Maspeth lost 19 guys,” Mannion said.

Mannion had been visiting family in Middle Village when the terrorists struck Sept. 11, and by the time he returned to California the Brisbane Lions Club had already organized a fund-raiser. So he suggested the money go directly to the Maspeth men.

The Maspeth club did its part by selling a thousand World Trade Center pins and passing on the proceeds in a team effort with the Brisbane club last Thursday.

But despite all of the cards and parties, the donations and good wishes, the men of Haz Mat 1 and Squad 288 have derived the greatest inspiration from those who endured the hardest losses — the widows of their lost comrades.

For Bacci and the others, “They are an amazing group of women who have kept us strong by their being strong.”

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

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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