Gardner, who grew up Flushing and later moved to Oceanside, L.I., died during the Sept. 11, 2001 rescue effort at the World Trade Center while serving with HazMat Company 1 based out of Maspeth.
Of the 343 firefighters who died in the attack on the Twin Towers, 18 came from the Maspeth firehouse that Company 1 shared with Squad 288, the highest death toll of any station in the city.
"People will occasionally ask, 'Who was Thomas Gardner?'" said Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), who represents the area and spoke at the ceremony. "That is the way his story will last forever."
Liu helped arrange the renaming for the stretch of street that extends from 43rd Avenue to 45th Avenue after Gardner's parents approached him. Like other street renamings, the local community and the City Council first had to approve it, and the old moniker will still be used for official purposes such as U.S. Postal Service deliveries and emergency responses.
Gardner's friends and family said they were appreciative of the recognition.
"It shows how much the community respects his sacrifice," said Nancy Pease, a family friend from Sunnyside. "That's very gratifying to his wife and kids and parents."
Gardner is survived by his parents, Peggy and Al; his wife, Elizabeth; and his daughter, Amy.
Amy, 12, spoke during the renaming ceremony, and said of her father: "When he walked into a room, your eyes would light up and all your worries would go away."
When she finished her speech, she was embraced by her waiting mother.
Gardner started his career with Engine Company 59 in Harlem and then moved on to HazMat. While serving with the Fire Department, he volunteered at the Bronx Zoo and earned degrees with honors in biology and chemistry at Queens College. At the time of his death, he had three years left until retirement, at which point he had planned to become a school teacher.
Said Liu: "He was a public servant in the truest sense of the word."
Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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