In a ceremony filled with tears and laughter, a throng of firefighters and Long Island City residents gathered Sunday to remember firefighter Manuel Mojica Jr. and to rename the corner of 34th Avenue and 21st Street in memory of the former Marine killed on Sept. 11.
The new street sign bearing Mojicas name is directly across from the Ravenswood Playground, where Mojica spent his youth while growing up at the nearby Ravenswood Houses and Queensview Co-op.
Mojica, 37, lived in Bellmore, L.I. and worked in Manhattans Squad 18 at the time of his death. Two French documentarians filmed him walking toward the North Tower after it was hit; Mojica made his last radio contact from the 35th floor. Squad 18 lost seven members that day.
He died the way he wouldve wanted to putting others before himself, said an emotional Anna Mojica, the firefighters wife.
This sign is just another way of his memory staying alive, she said.
Manual Mojicas sister, Letty, a 20-year veteran with the Police Department, and sister Vinia thanked the close-knit Ravenswood community and the crowd of firefighters for their support during the tragedy.
Even as some people wept during Sundays ceremony, they smiled as they remembered the man with the big Harley, big muscles and loud whistle, as he was described by fellow firefighter Howie Scott.
Mojica, known as Manny Mo, was also known as a gentle giant, said Scott, as he recalled his friends penchant for baking cookies at the firehouse.
In addition to 11 years with the Fire Department, Mojica was a decorated Marine, having served around the world as a military police officer for four years.
This was the least our city could do, said Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Woodside), who sponsored the renaming. He was a man that had the courage and bravery to put his life on the line to save other peoples lives.
Mojicas sister Vinia said she hoped people passing by the street sign would know how important it is to sacrifice and be something more than yourself.
I wish he was here, she said.
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2003 Community News Group
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