THEY WERE TOO GOOD
THEY WERE TOO GOODStaten Island's heroic city firefighters didn't hesitate to put themselves
in harm's way, because that's the only way their kind knows.
They were too good.
That was the problem with these guys from Rescue 5, right around the corner
from the Advance. Same as it was with all the other firefighters who rushed
to the World Trade Center as soon as the first alarm went out Tuesday
morning, and got there just in time to be missing.
They were all too quick, Too brave, Too certain of their duty.
There was going to be plenty of death and suffering in that neighborhood
without them, as soon as the skies over Manhattan started raining airplanes
driven by fanatics.
The firemen just swelled the numbers with their courage.
The names of the dead and the missing are trickling in now, a lot of them
straight off the sports pages, putting faces to the awful numbers.
Nick Rossomando from Rescue 5, who used to fly down the field on special
teams for Port Richmond High School to knock some poor kid into next week,
help him up, and do it all over again the next time.
Scott Davidson, out of Ladder 118 in Brooklyn, and Tommy Hannafin from Ladder
5 in Manhattan, basketball teammates at CSI.
John Bergin, another of the Rescue 5 guys, as tough when he played football
for New Dorp as he was gentle with the kids he coached in Little League.
Chuck Margiotta -- it only seems like they were all from Rescue 5 -- a tight
end at Monsignor Farrell whose heart was always bigger than his ability. And
if there was a common denominator among them, that was it.
Rob Curatolo from Ladder 16 in Manhattan, a newlywed who played baseball and
basketball at Curtis; the baby of a sports family, one of those kids
grownups live to coach. "A Fifties kind of kid," somebody said. But these
aren't the Fifties anymore.
A dozen more after that. Two dozen. A hundred. Enough to scar Staten Island
for as long as people have memories. Staten Island? Oh, yeah, that's the
place that took such a hit when the Twin Towers went down.
If the Rock's riding a little lower in the water right now, maybe it's
because no island this small should have to carry the weight of so much
There was no shortage of heroes, alive and dead, in New York City this week;
starting with Rudy Giuliani, who should be mayor for life.
But it wasn't bad luck that put the firemen in the stairwells and concourses
of the World Trade Center when the towers came down; two shifts of them on
most of the trucks, instead of one, because they wouldn't let their brothers
go into something like that alone.
With them, it wasn't a horrible case of being in the wrong place at the
worst possible time, like the passengers who boarded the hijacked planes
thinking they were going to the West Coast on vacation, or on business, and
wound up on a direct flight to hell; or the office workers who just happened
to report to work on a floor too high.
Coincidence had nothing to do with the firemen, the same way it's no
coincidence that so many of their bosses are gone.
Dead from leading the way.
The firefighters were exactly where they meant to be -- at the spot where
the danger ... and the need ... were greatest.
That part was true of all of them.
The guys from Rescue 5 -- Margiotta and Rossomando and Bergin and the rest
-- just had to work a little harder at getting there.
It was a given that every fireman in that half of Manhattan was going to be
in one of the World Trade Center buildings, or under one, when the towers
fell. But the guys from Rescue 5 shouldn't have been able to get from
Concord to lower Manhattan in the time it took the fire to cook steel and
concrete, and bring the buildings down.
Their killers, who planned mass murder the way a doctor plans surgery, right
down to the last gallon of jet fuel, couldn't have counted on them being
there. How could people who hate that much understand the love of men like
Chuck Margiotta or Rob Curatolo, who rushed to put their own lives at risk
to save strangers?
It didn't matter if they were off duty, or on sick leave, or retired. They
went anyway, taking taxis and buses, hitching rides if that's what it took.
Because not going would've put the lie to everything they lived for.
And died for.
If some of them were five minutes slower getting to the scene ... if they
hung back just a little, or hesitated before rushing in, their friends
wouldn't be holding candlelight vigils, trying to keep hope alive.
But that's not who they were. New York's best of the best.
In the end, that's what got them where they are now, buried under 110
stories of rubble.
They were just too good.
Jay Price / Staten Island Advance