Saturday, September 5, 2015

Joseph and Anthony

FF Joseph Spor was a seven-year veteran of the FDNY.  FF Spor spent almost the entirety of his career in the FDNY as a member of Engine 88/Ladder 38 in the Bronx.  However, in mid-August 2001, he fulfilled a professional dream when he joined Rescue Co. 3, one of the FDNY's elite units and the Rescue unit where his dad had worked, first as a firefighter and later as a lieutenant.  

Joseph Spor was thirty-five years old when he died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.  He and his wife Colleen were the proud parents of four children, the oldest of whom was nine years old at the time of FF Spor's death and the youngest of whom was just six months old.  Firefighting skills were not the only skills Joseph Spor possessed.  He was an accomplished carpenter and craftsman and had - in fact - just started a home renovation project when he, his brothers from Rescue 3 and hundreds of other FDNY members descended on Lower Manhattan on that terrible Tuesday morning.  

Colleen Spor was left without her husband, her children's father, and without the means necessary to complete the home renovation project Joe had started.  Firefighters from his old house, Engine 88/Ladder 38, stepped in to help but did not have enough money to complete the project.  All hope seemed lost.  

And then something extraordinary happened. 

While it may seem almost impossible to recall - the further we descend into the muck and mire of partisanship in these United States - in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001 the notion of doing good unto another was neither an alien concept nor an infrequent occurrence.  In Kansas, there is a small town called Anthony.  In 2001, the people of Anthony, Kansas wanted to do something to help those who had died in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania.  Anthony's Mayor, John Schott, called various agencies looking to be put in contact with a family in need.  Those calls eventually led him to being put in contact with FF Joe Huber of Engine 88 in the Bronx, one of FF Spor's closest friends.  The two men got to talking...

...and before you could click the heels on your ruby-red slippers three times, the people of Anthony, Kansas, the FDNY, and the family of FF Joseph Spor became joined at the hip.  Donations poured in from people who had never met the family and perhaps had never been to (and never possessed a desire to go to) New York City.  The project was completed.   

The completion of the work did not represent the culmination of the relationship.  FF Huber became the FDNY's unofficial ambassador to Anthony, Kansas.  The people of Anthony, Kansas erected their very own 09-11 Memorial to honor the lives lost that day...

...and those impacted by their death.  

Even those who never made an acquaintance while living halfway across the United States.

FF Joseph Spor
FDNY - Rescue 3


Friday, September 4, 2015

Connective Tissue

September's final Sunday shall be spent - as we have spent it annually since 2010 - participating in the Tunnel to Towers Run in New York City.  

It is an event in which the Cadet Corps from the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York also participates annually.  The Cadets are an extraordinary sight to see to to hear on T2T Sunday.  They run together in formation.  They sing together.  They move as a singular unit.  It is nothing short of impressive. 

2014 T2T Run - USMA Cadet Corps 
Manhattan side of Brooklyn Battery Tunnel

As I was sitting at home on Wednesday night lamenting what to watch on TV as the Yankees had already played earlier that day, I came across a story on the New York Post's web site that further underscored the impressive nature of these young men and women. 

Last Friday, the members of the Class of 2016 received their class rings at the Academy's annual ring memorial ceremony.  And unlike my college ring - and perhaps yours as well - West Point Cadets do not simply order their class rings out of the Josten's catalog.  The gold that is used in each class's rings is gold melted down from class rings donated by members of previous graduating classes.  It serves to link, both physically and metaphorically, the graduating class (West Point's and the Army's future) with its past. It is a powerful reminder of the connective tissue that joins one's past to one's future. 

The Class of 2016 is comprised of roughly 1,000 Cadets, a number of whom I have seen in action at the past several T2T Runs.  They designed their class rings - as every class at West Point does.  The '16 Class designed their ring to include not just gold from years gone by but also steel from the World Trade Center.  They are apparently the first class at West Point to have done so and they did it in recognition of those whose lives were lost that day - and those whose lives have been lost in the fourteen years since, which they refer to as "the consequences of the day." 

Five simple words.  A subtle yet powerful reminder too of the connective tissue that joins one's past to one's future.  


Thursday, September 3, 2015

SoHo's Best Apostol

Faustino Apostol, Jr., spent the final twenty-three-plus years of his life serving and protecting the people of New York City as a member of the FDNY.  He joined the department on January 25, 1978.  He spent part of his career with Engine 55 in Little Italy.  In September 2001, he was the Chief Aide in Battalion 2.  

On the final morning of his life, he was one of the first members of the Department on scene, working that day as he was with Engine 24/Ladder 5 in SoHo.  Once he arrived and took in what was happening around him, he called his high school sweetheart Kathleen to tell her where he was, the situation was under control and that he was OK.  

She answered the phone at the home that the two of them - married for thirty-three years - shared in Annadale on Staten Island.  Whether or she believed him - that all was OK - she let him say it.  And then they hung up.  She had prayers to say.  He had a fire to fight.  

Faustino Apostol, Jr. was fifty-five years of age when he was killed in the line of duty on September 11, 2001.  He served his city for close to a quarter-century as a member of the FDNY.  Prior to joining the Department, he served his nation for four years as a member of the United States Navy.  In addition to Kathleen, his life's great love, he was survived by his sons Justin and Christopher, his daughters-in-law Deborah and Jennifer, and his grandsons, Riley Thomas and Michael Thomas.  

Faustino Apostol, Jr.
FDNY - Battalion 2


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Life of Breadth, Not Length

As a parent, when your 19-year-old son comes home one day and informs you that he has decided to enlist in the United States Marine Corps, the part of your heart that is bursting with pride is engaged in a knife fight with the part of your heart that is bursting with fear.  

When he returns home five years later, having seen the world, having attained the rank of Sergeant and having earned twelve medals for excellence including the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal, you want to hug him so hard that it takes him the rest of his life to extricate himself from your grasp. 

Of course, you do not.  Sure you hug him hard to welcome him home but you do so knowing that soon enough, he shall be off again. 

Christian Michael Otto Regenhard was born and raised in Co-Op City, the Bronx, to Sally Regenhard and Det. Sgt. Al Regenhard, a thirty-nine-year veteran of the NYPD and, himself, a United States Marine.  A young man with an adventurous streak and a 146 IQ, he could have done anything with his life.  And in the twenty-eight years in which he lived, he damn sure did. 

July 27, 2001 was a day of great significance in the Regenhard family.  For it was on that day that FF Christian Regenhard officially became a "proby" in Ladder Company 131, Red Hook, Brooklyn.  And it was on that day that Det. Sgt. Al Regenhard retired after thirty-nine years spent serving and protecting the people of New York City.  

FF Christian Regenhard was deprived a lengthy career in public service.  On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, he was among the 343 members of the FDNY who was killed at the World Trade Center.  He is gone but who he was - and the promise he carried with him - remains not merely with us but carrying forward.  The Christian Regenhard Center for Emergency Response Studies ("RaCERS") is a Member of the Research Consortium of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which is my son's Alma mater and judging by nothing other than its stated focus, it certainly appears to be dedicated to the pursuit of doing good.

Something that would make its namesake very proud, no doubt. 

FF Christian Regenhard
Ladder 131 - FDNY



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Peters' Principles

On September 11, 2001, when hell descended on Lower Manhattan, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were reduced to rubble, and chaos was everywhere, St. Paul's Chapel stood as the literal and figurative calm in the center of the maelstrom.  

St. Paul's Chapel - Tuesday, September 11, 2001

On that terrible day - and on the terrible days that followed on its heels like so many Horsemen of the Apocalypse - St. Paul's Chapel remained more than just a house of worship.  It was a safe haven.  It was more than even that however.  It became the Shepherd of not just its regular flock but of the first responders and other volunteers who became fixtures in its neighborhood as September ceded the stage to October and October to November during that never-ending Autumn.  The days grew shorter.  The nights grew colder.  St. Paul's remained...well, it remained St. Paul's.  

Friday, September 11, 2015, Rev. David Peters of Austin, Texas, a former United States Marine and a Chaplain in the United States Army, shall stand at St. Paul's pulpit and deliver a sermon entitled "Learning War and Reconciliation".    If you cannot make it to Lower Manhattan to see and hear Reverend Peters deliver his sermon in person, you can view it through a live webcast at 


Monday, August 31, 2015

A Man of Riches

FF Jimmy Riches of Engine 4 was only twenty-nine years old when he died on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  His company was among the first firefighters at the North Tower on that terrible morning.  FF Riches had only been with the FDNY for approximately two years at the time of his death, moving over to join "New York's Bravest" only after having spent eight years as a member of the NYPD, "New York's Finest".  Fine and Brave.  Not a bad way to be known. 

FF Riches was the son of a firefighter.  His dad, Jim Riches, retred from the FDNY as a Deputy Chief.  At the time of Jimmy Riches's death, he was the only one of his father's sons who had followed his father's footsteps into the family business.  After he died, all three of his brothers joined the FDNY.  

It took until March 25, 2002 before the body of FF Jimmy Riches was recovered in the rubble of the North Tower.  A woman on a stretcher was found in his immediate proximity, which was of no surprise to his father.  Once a hero, always a hero.   When FF Riches's body was removed from  the Pit at Ground Zero, it was his dad and his three younger brothers who carried him home from that place.  

FF Jimmy Riches
Engine 4 - FDNY 


Sunday, August 30, 2015

No Small Thing

I came across something really neat on Facebook on Friday, courtesy of my cousin Patty Kelly-Decianni.  I do not know Bob Small, the man who posted it.  However, he is someone who was in the World Trade Center on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, and lived to tell the tale.  According to the 9/11 Tribute Center "Surviving 9/11" exhibit just how he did so is nothing less than miraculous - since he was standing at  a copying machine down the hall from his 72nd floor office at Morgan Stanley in the South Tower when the building was struck.  

We are now less than two weeks away from the 14th anniversary of that terrible day.  Sharing his request here seemed to me to be an eminently worthwhile thing to do...

As most of you (my Facebook friends) know, I am a survivor of the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11. As the 14th anniversary approaches, I’m still looking for two people that I and my pal James helped that day.
While descending the stairs, James and I came across two women. One was four months pregnant. We were probably somewhere 60th to 65th floor range. Long story short, we helped them down. We carried their bags. We gave them water. We kept them cool. We even stopped to rest on more than one occasion. We said our good-byes when we reached the lobby and they were ushered away by EMTs.
As they thanked us for our help, I remember telling the pregnant woman that if she were to have a boy that she should name him Robert.
Later in the day, while trekking through Brooklyn, James and I were waiting on line to use a payphone to call our families in New Jersey. We overheard a man using the phone ask whoever he was talking to how he was going to get to East Brunswick in New Jersey. When he got off the phone I told him I was heading to Old Bridge… a neighboring town of East Brunswick. I asked that he join us and that we’d get him home. Another long story short… my plans to get home flopped and amazingly this guy we met from East Brunswick was able to locate friends in Brooklyn and they took me home.
If you would, please share this message with all of your friends on Facebook… hopefully someone knows someone who has told a similar story. I’m just hoping that there is some kid named Robert out there who in 13 ½ years old and I’d like to shake the hands and thank the three men responsible for getting me home.
Thanks… be cool if this works.

Mr. Small is a master of understatement.  And he is right.  It would be cool.  Damn cool in fact.

For today only, I make this request:  After you read today's silliness - and Bob Small's request - share it.  Maybe, just maybe, he can connect with the people for whom he has been looking and about whom he has been thinking for the past fourteen years.

Whether it happens for him today or not, one thing is for certain.

He shall not lose hope.

His bona fides in that area are already firmly established.