Fire and police stations across New York City held ceremonies on Sunday morning, the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center. In addition to the major ceremony held every year at the World Trade Center site, the firehouses and police stations hold their own ceremonies to honor their fallen comrades.
Among the New York City firefighters who lost their lives trying to save others on that fateful day were two beloved members of the Engine 250 station house on Foster Ave. in Brooklyn.
On Sep. 11, 2001, Mike Ragusa and Carl Molinaro were on “rotation” – Ragusa with Engine 279 in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, and Molinaro with Ladder 2 in Manhattan.
Firefighters often go on rotation to other firehouses, to experience other neighborhoods, and to be able to work with “different types of construction,” firefighter Chris Franz, of Engine 250, explained to Hamodia.
Engine 279 and Ladder 2 were among the station houses that responded to the fire at the Twin Towers on 9/11. When the towers collapsed, Ragusa, Molinaro and 341 other heroic firefighters perished trying to save the lives of others.
Ragusa, who was in his mid-20s, lived in with his parents in Brooklyn’s Mill Basin neighborhood. Molinaro was a few years older than Ragusa; he lived in Staten Island with his wife and two children.
“They were two really good guys, and they became friends from working here,” recalls Franz, a 22-year veteran of the FDNY.
The deaths of Ragusa and Molinaro, he says, are “a tremendous loss to their families, friends and firehouses.”
On Sunday morning, a memorial ceremony was held in the station house to honor all those who lost their lives 15 years ago, particularly Ragusa and Molinaro. A table was set up with memorial candles, a folded flag, and photographs of Ragusa and Molinaro: a closeup of the two of them, smiling and in uniform, the blond-haired, fair-skinned Molinaro a half-head taller than his dark-featured buddy, Ragusa; a medium shot, Molinaro and Ragusa – the former in civilian clothes, the latter in FDNY t-shirt – standing in the station house with their arms around each other; and an image, probably taken from security camera footage near the World Trade Center, of Ragusa, in full equipment, rushing into the Towers on 9/11, rushing toward his own death, rushing to save the lives of others, rushing toward heroism.
Six separate moments of silence were held during the memorial ceremony on Sunday, corresponding to those exact times 15 years ago when planes crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, a field in Pennsylvania, and when each of the towers came down. The names of all those who died in the fire battalion that includes Engine 250 and four other firehouses were read aloud. Afterward, a service was held at a church on Foster Ave. and Ocean Ave.
Kensington residents often express pride in and gratitude toward the men of Engine 250, but 9/11 is a particular day in which they, like residents of other communities across New York, show appreciation to their local first responders.
Yossi and Brocha Goldman, who live on Foster Ave. directly across from Engine 250, deliver a special cake to the station house every Sept. 11. Comprised of different FDNY-themed photos each year, and custom-ordered from a local bakery, the cake is just one way the Goldman family says thank you to the Engine 250 family.
“We have great appreciation for the sacrifices they make,” Yossi Goldman told Hamodia, after delivering this year’s cake – featuring photos of the station house, its truck and logo, all decorated with white icing, and green and yellow flowers. “Not only for 9/11, but for how they are always there for the neighborhood, every day of every year.”
Among the Engine 250 firefighters in attendance at Sunday’s remembrance ceremony was John O’Connell, a firefighter with Engine 250 since 2005. Though he never knew Ragusa and Molinaro, he says that around the firehouse, their names still come up in conversation.
“Sure, the guys talk about it,” says O’Connell. “But it is kind of personal for everyone, so we don’t discuss it much.”
Even when speaking amongst themselves about their buddies Mike and Carl, the actual events of that fateful day are still often too painful for the firefighters to talk about.
“Guys talk about the memories, about hanging out together – but we don’t discuss the details of what happened on that day,” says O’Connell.
Just then, an alarm rang across the Engine 250 station house: An emergency call was coming in. O’Connell dashed away to grab his uniform and gear. Moments later, sirens wailing, horns blaring, the shiny red Engine 250 truck rumbled out of the stationhouse, headed west on Foster Ave. Painted on its side were the words, “In Loving Memory, 9-11-01, FF Michael Ragusa, FF Carl Molinaro.” Inside the truck, half a dozen of New York’s Bravest were assembling uniforms and gear, being briefed on their next life-saving mission. Just another day at work for New York’s Bravest, heading to the call of duty.