Saturday, August 15, 2015

Devotion by Extraction

Five-year-old Peter Bielfeld went to his dentist because he had to have his tooth extracted.  It was an extraction that very well might have shaped the direction of the next (almost) forty years of his life.  According to his father, Ernest, young Peter was so upset upon leaving the dentist's office that the elder Bielfeld stopped on the way home at a local toy store and told his sobbing son to pick out any toy that he wanted.  Young Peter's choice?  A bright, shiny fire truck.    

On Sunday, September 9, 2001, FF Peter Bielfeld, a 19-year veteran of the FDNY, which career he spent as a member of Ladder 42, which calls the Mott Haven section of the Bronx home, badly injured his right shoulder while he and his brothers were battling a fire in a five-story-building in the Bronx.  He was placed on medical leave.  It mattered not.  When hell broke loose in lower Manhattan less than forty-eight hours later, FF Bielfeld did what a member of the FDNY does instinctively - he ran as fast as he could right into it. 

There is an old saw about the marriage vows that are exchanged by and between Age and Wisdom.  At age forty-four, FF Peter Bielfeld had spent slightly less than half of his life running towards things that he might have been better served not having run towards.  That morning, he raced downtown and used gear that he found in Ladder 10, which was right across the street from the Towers, to join the fray.  Before he did, he wrote a note to his family that he left inside of a locker.  It said simply, "I am in L-42, Peter Bielfeld.  Please hold my stuff.  Tell my family I love them,  Mom and Dad, Patti and Brit, Roger & Barbara."  

It was not until May 2002 that FF Bielfeld's remains were identified.  Thereafter, on September 10, 2002, his family laid him to rest in a funeral mass at St. Anselm's Church in Mott Haven, a mass at which more than 2,000 firefighters paid their respects to him and to his family.   

FF Bielfeld's daughter Brittany was just seventeen months old when he died.  He was divorced from his wife Patricia and was estranged from girlfriend Theresa Clarner, Brittany's mother.  In the years following his death, the enmity between his former girlfriend and his family deepened.   Young Brittany Bielfeld, who was denied the chance to get to know the father who loved her, has consistently honored his memory.  

Every picture tells a story.  This mural tells a particularly heroic one... 

FF Peter Bielfeld Memorial Mural
Thwaites Place, The Bronx 



Judith Pack said...

Thank you again Mr. Kenny for posting these heartfelt tributes to those we lost, and those left behind. I will continue to read your posts with unending respect for the fallen firefighters of 9-11, as well as those lost to the after effects. I realize these are your personal, heartfelt posts and will not leave any more comments, but will read with sincere appreciation

Adam Kenny said...

Judith. Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

Patricia Cubas said...

I'm Patricia, Peters ex-wife. Peter and I were back together. His main concern was his daughter. Sad outcome for everyone involved. It was bittersweet to say the least. We were together right before he was killed and I'm thankful to God for that but saddened that he's gone. RIP Peter, until we meet again. I visited your grave a few weeks ago. Your buried close to where my Mom is buried. See you when I get there. Xxoo
Patti Honeybee

Adam Kenny said...

Thank you for taking the time to read this and to share your thoughts. As a person who is fortunate enough to have not experienced the loss of a loved one on September 11, 2001, all I can offer to those who did, such as you, is my condolences, which I recognize do nothing to salve your wounds.