Family and friends of a firefighter killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks gathered Friday with students and school officials at an Ozone Park elementary school to name the site for the victim.
PS 65, which has only been referred to by its numeric assignment since its founding in 1996, was named for Raymond York, who worked both at Engine Co. 285 in Ozone Park and in the educational outreach arm of the Fire Department. More than 30 members of his family attended the ceremony, along with former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
"It is not so much knowing that there is a new name but knowing that it is for a hero," Principal Iris Nelson said. "It was just an unbelievable day."
PS 65, an elementary school with students in kindergarten through sixth grade, is at 103-22 99th St.
Nelson said York was not on duty Sept. 11 but commandeered a fire truck in Manhattan when he heard of the attacks on the World Trade Center. She said he used the truck to get close to Ground Zero and then hitched a ride with an ambulance to cross police lines and help rescue people trapped in the Twin Towers.
Raymond York was never heard from again.
The ceremony, which involved students marching with family members around the school in honor of York's memory, included firefighters from Engine Co. 285; Tom DaParma, the Queens representative from the Uniformed Firefighters Association; Borough President Helen Marshall; and City Councilman Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach).
"It was really something that we will remember for such a long time," said Pattie Musalin, PTA president at PS 65. "This will go on from generation to generation."
Musalin said she and other parents and teachers came up with the idea to name the school after seeing a memorial in front of Engine Co. 285, which sits adjacent to PS 65. She said a teacher on the leadership team who used to work with York's wife, Joan, contacted her and the city Department of Education to work on a plan to name the school after Raymond.
Nelson said Raymond York was a frequent visitor at PS 65, having helped distribute books while dressed as Clifford the dog and educating children on how to prevent and be secure around fires. She said he always took personal responsibility in times of crisis, substituting the words in Frank Sinatra's song "New York, New York" with his own.
"His trademark song was New York, New York, and he would put his name in place and say 'It's up to you, Ray York, Ray York.'"
Nelson said the extended family, who had attended other events in Ray's memory, was touched by the students' tribute to the firefighter.
"They said with all the ceremonies they had attended, none were as moving as today's," she said.
DaParma said York went out of his way to help children and the community around Engine Co. 285. DaParma said the firefighter enjoyed teaching children about fire safety and the operations within the Fire Department.
"He devoted a large part of his life to children and to helping out," DaParma said. "He was a positive role model."
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2003 Community News Group
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