Monday, November 8, 2010

Today We Remember Lt. Mike Warchola, Ladder Co. 5

Today we remember Lieutenant Mike Warchola, Ladder Co. 5, FDNY.

On September 11, 2001 Mike was 51. Two shifts separated Mike from retirement and a trip to Australia when he sped to the WTC on Sept. 11 with Ladder Co. 5.  The final 24-hour shift of his 24-year career would have ended less than a week later. His paperwork was done and his plans were set.

Lt. Mike Warchola and his Ladder 5 crew were assisting a civilian who was having chest pains on the stairway landing on the 12th floor of the North Tower.  Immediately following the collapse of the South Tower, Fellow Fireman Chief Jay Jonas decided to evacuate and was helping a civilian back down the stairs when he saw Mike. "Mike, let's go, it's time to go!", Jay said. "It's OK, Jay, you have your civilian; we have ours. We will be right behind you."

Shortly thereafter, the North Tower collapsed.

Miraculously, 14 people survived the collapse in the B Stairwell of the North Tower. Joe Jonas was one of them. As he found himself in a pile of rubble, amongst a bed of twisted steel and debris, he heard over his radio the final mayday call for Lt. Mike Warchola. "Mayday Mayday Mayday. This is the officer of Ladder Company 5. I'm in the B stairway on the 12th floor. I'm trapped and I'm hurt bad." Jonas had no way to get to Mike. He gave out his third Mayday and that was the last they heard from Mike.

Mike Warchola is remembered for being quiet in words and strong in actions.  He was a unique, extremely intelligent and very interesting man. He had an inexhaustive curiosity about the world we live in, and a unique perception about life. He was very well-read and loved to travel to the sometimes obscure places he'd read about. Mike loved his children with his very being and took an active part in their lives and future.

He made elaborate drawings of Venus Flytraps and he kept a Godzilla poster on his wall.  He loved to paint.

On the Friday following September 11, Mike Warchola's body was found in a stairwell of the crumbled tower along with a young woman he was apparently trying to rescue.

Mike's friend Ellen remembers him:
I miss my friend Mike. He had a strong and independent mind, loved experiencing the physical world, understood much about evil, he was sometimes reticent, but that was OK. He was a wacky and wonderful Warchola. His love for his children Amy and Aaron was in his core. He was devoted to Ladder 5. I liked knowing he was around. He said we'd be friends for life. I am so sad he is not here.

We Will Never Forget!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Today We Remember Moira Smith

Today we remember Police Officer Moira Smith, 13th Precinct, NYPD. She was a member of the New York Police Department for 13 years.

Moira was only the second policewoman killed in the line of duty in the history of the New York Police Department.
She had been working in the Manhattan Police Station when the planes struck the World Trade Center and she rushed down to the scene voluntarily. She didn’t have to go down there that day, she chose to go.

On a number of occasions she was seen coming out of the World Trade Center, carrying people out, then going back in. 

Many witnesses remember being escorted out of the building by Moira who calmly ordered the streaming mass of people off of the escalator and out of the lobby, not allowing them to stop to look at the destruction and horror of bodies and debris outside, preventing a jam.

She was captured by a news photographer helping a bleeding man out of the burning south tower and heard over her police radio directing people to safety.

Moments later the tower collapsed and she was killed, along with her police partner Robert Fazio.

Charles Barbuti, a lieutenant in the 13th Precinct and Smith's friend, says he would describe Moira as active, dedicated, courageous. 

Every time Moira’s husband, Jim Smith, looks at their daughter Patricia, he sees the spirit of Moira. In a touching scene in December of 2001, the then 2-year-old ittle girl, dressed in a red velvet dress, accompanied her father onto the stage of Carnegie Hall to accept the Medal of Honor, the department’s highest accolades, for her mother.

Jim remembers a woman who above all loved to travel and experience the world to the full. He remembers that she ran with the bulls in Spain, played roulette in Monte Carlo and rode a camel in North Africa. But she loved nothing better than to drag friends and family off on trips around the U.S. in her Winnebago van. 

Moira Smith ran into the south tower because she believed a "life lived in the service of others was the only one worth living," her heartbroken husband says. "I am grateful to have our child to raise, helping her to understand that her mother was and still is the pride of New York City.”

“If Moira was here, she'd be protecting the people of the city she loved, defending the nation she loved and keeping it from harm. But most importantly, she would be about the business of living."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Today We Remember Sean Patrick Tallon

Today we remember Sean Patrick "Charger" Tallon, 26-years-old, Ladder Co. 10.

Sean had only a month or so left of being a "probie" (a probationary firefighter). He was one of the first responders, along with the other members of Ten House. Their station was right across the street from the World Trade Center. On the way up the stairs of Tower One, Sean helped a fellow firefighter that was having a heart attack, and then he continued up with two more of his fellow firemen. They were trapped when Tower One collapsed.

Sean was a reservist in the United States Marine Corps, a former emergency medical technician and a probationary firefighter with Ladder Company 10 just a few weeks away from the end of his training. He was tough.
He loved to play the button accordion. He would bring out his instrument and play Irish favorites for relatives at family gatherings, with his sister on the piano accordion. But he rarely played for friends; some of them didn't even know he could play an instrument.

When he left for work from his home on Sept. 11, headed for the fire station that was among the first to respond to the trade center attack, he seemed in a buoyant mood. 

Sean had recently told his mother that he was ready to find Mrs. Right. He said that would be his next mission. His probie year was almost finished and he wanted to start with the rest of his life. He had just blossomed.

A touching note left on Sean Tallon's Memorial wall September 11, 2006:

I knew Sean from Fordham Prep, I graduated in '94 after Sean. I remember him playing football. I am in the Army now and in 2003 I deployed to Afghanistan. I took Sean's memorial bracelet with me and left it in one of the caves just before I left. I will never forget.
C co. 1-501 PIR, 4th BRG 25th IN
~Amal Agalawatta, Ft. Richardson, Alaska

We Will Never Forget!

Today We Remember Asia Cottom

Today we remember Asia Cottom, 11-years-old.

Asia Cottom was with 11-year-old companions Rodney Dickens and Bernard Brown on AA Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon.

Her last project at school was to list her role models and best friends. For her heroes, she listed her parents. She listed her brother as one of her best friends. And on her list of great singers, she listed her mother. For Asia, family was at the top of her list.

She was extremely excited about her four-day National Geographic adventure. She was one of three exceptional middle-school students headed for a four-day educational adventure to the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary off the California coast, accompanied by their teachers. She had spent days on the computer on the internet learning about the National Geographic Society, its projects, marine biology and research, and Pacific ecosystems.

Asia was a real charmer who was trying hard to grow up. She had a talent for science and math and dreamed of becoming a pediatrician. She also enjoyed dancing and jumping rope double-Dutch style. At times it was a challenge to keep Asia busy and her teachers looked for extra opportunities to expand her horizons. Her math and science magnet school had state-of-art computer equipment and technology. Asia had special computer skills and wanted her classmates to learn as much as she did about computers. She loved to learn and was off to a great start at her first year in middle school.

Asia's mom talks about her little girl:

"Asia, the little girl with the infectious grin. She loved to laugh, she loved to smile, she loved people and she loved God. She loved girl things like Tweety Bird and Barbies, jump ropes and purses, and she had wisdom beyond her years. She was everything a mom could hope for in a child. I miss her every minute."

Asia was decked in her "Tweety gear" upon boarding her flight.

Alan Rockline of Olney, MD, left a personal promise to Asia her memorial page:

"Dear Asia, Your picture is on our fridge. I just tried to explain 9-11 to my 7 year old. She doesn't understand. I promise to take her to your bench at the Pentagon, and I also promise that she will know you."

We Will Never Forget!

Today We Remember Bernard Curtis Brown II

Today we remember 11-year-old Bernard Curtis Brown II of Washington, D.C., who was aboard American Flight 77 on Sept. 11.

Bernard was one of three exceptional middle-school students headed for a four-day educational adventure to the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary off the California coast, accompanied by their teachers. Each youngster was a star student. This unique adventure was a reward for that. They had a schedule full of exciting things to do: A boat trip to search for marine mammals and seabirds; the island hike to study native and introduced species; the kayaking above kelp forests to view sea caves, and much more.

Bernard Brown along with 2 classmates, Asia Cottom, and Rodney Dickens, from Leckie Elementary, climbed aboard the jets high on life, as only innocent children can be. Their last moments were filled with ghastly horror. Too young to comprehend evil, the Pokemon fan, the basketball fanatic and the Tweety Bird lover, were assassinated by terrorists on Sept. 11.

Bernard, praised for his spelling, drawing and zest for living, was one of 64 people aboard American Airlines Flight 77 that slammed into the Pentagon – the workplace of Bernard's father. He was clever, a quick wit, the kind of boy who kept his teachers on their toes. Estella Cleveland, who taught his fifth-grade class a year before Sept. 11 at Leckie Elementary School in Southeast Washington, loved him. "He was fun-loving," she said. "He was the joy of the class."

Bernard just loved basketball. He’d been playing since he was 7. He tried football, but he couldn’t, because of his asthma. He played soccer at 5. As he got older, he would just go out and shoot baskets. He usually got up Saturday morning, about 8 in the morning, and he’d just go outside and dribble, shoot. The goal was right outside our neighbors’ bedroom window. He would play by himself in the mornings, or his dad would go out and play with him. Sometimes his mother would, or his sister. The neighborhood kids would come and play once they got up. He always said he was going to be a star; that he was going to play professional basketball some day.

Sinita Brown, Bernard’s mother, recalls September 11:

"Everybody was calling me at my job because they knew my husband worked at the Pentagon”. A golf outing had Bernard Sr. out of the office that day. But Sinita Brown's relief quickly turned to grief when she learned it was her son's flight that hit the Pentagon.

As it turns out, Bernard Sr. had a serious heart-to-heart with his "happy, loving child" who was apprehensive about flying.

"To be honest," Brown told NBC, "we talked about death. And I just told him, 'Don't be afraid. … Just listen to what the people tell you, and the instructions. You'll be all right; you'll be fine.'

He said, 'Daddy, I’m scared,' and I said, 'Hey, don't be scared; don't be afraid to die. Because we are all going to die someday.'"

Unlike many 11-year-olds, Bernard "lived to go to school," according to his mother.

The ambitious basketball player had just purchased a pair of Air Jordan sneakers. He was wearing the treasured shoes on Sept. 11.

We Will Never Forget!