EW pays tribute to local heroes
? On Tuesday, Sept. 11, New York City lost hundreds of its finest relief workers, policemen, and firefighters among the thousands killed in that day’s terrorist attacks. A small fraction of them were close to us, and their heroism is common to all who responded to the call for help. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and everyone touched by the tragedies of that terrible day. — John Squires, President and James Seymore, Managing Editor ?
Like every other firefighting crew in Manhattan, Engine Company 23 got the alarm around 9 a.m. The severity of the situation was instantly obvious — it was already a five-alarm call. The six men leapt onto their truck and tore 4.5 miles down Manhattan into the fray, hoping, their company commander remembers, for a good assignment. According to sketchy, secondhand reports, they were last spotted on the 20th floor of 2 World Trade Center, helping civilians and office workers get out.
They have yet to come back uptown.
Engine 23 has been around for a while. It was organized at the close of the Civil War in 1865 and has been at its present location on West 58th Street since 1906. The firefighters patrol a sprawling stretch of midtown Manhattan — roughly 11 blocks north to south and 5 avenues east to west. Entertainment Weekly is located in the southwestern corner of their district. They protected us every day, yet until last Tuesday, we couldn’t have told you their names.
Well, we can now.
When the call came in, Lieut. Charles Garbarini rallied these men: Hector Tirado Jr., 30; John Marshall, 34; Robert McPadden, 30; James Pappageorge, 29; and Mark Whitford, 31.
They are relatively new guys — one had been at Engine 23 just a month and a half. They live all over the tristate area. Tirado is an avid runner. Whitford is in the Army Reserve. Pappageorge is always on his captain to take his blood pressure pills. McPadden, whose legendary appetite provokes chuckles, was supposed to close on a house the day after the attack. At the time of the incident, Marshall was waiting for a transfer uptown, where he hoped to see more action. McPadden (whose wife, Kate, is assistant consumer marketing director at our sister publication Teen People), Pappageorge, and Tirado weren’t even supposed to be there Sept. 11, having swapped shifts with other firefighters.
Taken together, the men have 13 children.
”They were so young, so eager, so proud to be members of the department,” says Capt. John Bendick, company commander for Engine 23. ”We firefighters have an expression, ‘See you at the big one.’ These guys figured it was the big one and they had to be there.”
These men are heroes. We ask that you give to the organizations listed below. And, above all, we ask you to hope.
”We know where our guys are,” says Bendick. ”They’re in the restaurants and bars down underneath the buildings, popping cold ones. But we gotta get there soon, ’cause they’re down to their last couple of cases and the beer is getting warm.” He pauses and flashes a look at the unmade cot in the station house and the flickery TV tuned to the local news. He smiles, sadly.
”We know where they are. Yeah. We sure do.”
Engine 23 Relief Fund
215 West 58th Street
New York, NY 10019
UFA Widows and Children Fund
204 East 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010