The friends and family of New York City's Engine 23 come together for a very special Christmas celebration

By EW Staff
Updated December 21, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Back in our Sept. 28 issue, we told you about the firefighters of Engine 23 — located at 215 West 58th Street — who have protected the staff of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY for over a decade. They lost six men in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center — Lieut. Charles Garbarini, Hector Tirado Jr., John Marshall, Robert McPadden, James Pappageorge, and Mark Whitford — leaving 13 children without fathers.

On Dec. 8, the company had its annual Christmas party in the firehouse. It was a day when a few hours of good cheer penetrated the lingering sorrow. Kids were everywhere — swarming over the engine, squealing with delight at the arrival of Santa Claus, tearing open presents, and leaving trails of crinkled, candy-colored wrapping paper in their wake. The scene was so joyous and hopeful that we wanted to share these pictures with you. (And by the way, that jolly fellow in the white beard and red suit is EW’s own Jim Seymore, our managing editor, assisted by his wife, Joyce.)

Surveying the happy chaos, Capt. John Bendick, a 33-year veteran and company commander of Engine 23, allowed himself a smile, and said: ”In the middle of everything, we’re just thankful. There was such an outpouring of condolences and prayers and thoughts. Our families who lost people are doing well. They’re going to have their moments, of course. They stop by. We try and take care of them. We do the best we can. We have one memorial service left. But once it’s over, that isn’t going to relieve us from the responsibilities — to our families, our children, and the families and children of New York.”

Just then, as if on some cosmic cue, a call came over the house intercom. Children were shooed off the engine, cars pushed away from the entrance, and the party paused for a moment as New York’s bravest rolled out onto the city’s streets, ready and willing to confront whatever awaited them.