Two firefighters died yesterday at a fire at the now-abandoned Deutsche Bank Building on Liberty Street in Lower Manhattan, right across the street from the World Trade Center site.
I watched the drama unfold on television last night, and it brought back painful memories of six years ago. Seeing floors of a skyscraper on fire with smoke billowing out was heartbreaking to witness, especially where it was coming from. The building was severely damaged due to the Twin Towers' collapse, and was being demolished slowly, due to the asbestos and toxins damage. It stood there for years because of legal wrangling, but last year, the demolition finally began.
The fire started on the 17th floor, and at this time it is not known yet what caused it. The two firefighters, Joe Graffagnino and Robert Beddia, were trapped on the 14th floor and died due to smoke inhalation. They were from Engine 24/Ladder 5 in Greenwich Village, which lost 11 firefighters on September 11, 2001. The house also lost three firefighters in a blaze in 1994, which included a good friend of my father.
As the son of a retired New York City firefighter, it always hits me hard when I hear that one of New York's Bravest has made the ultimate sacrifice. But when it has happened again at the place where so many gave the lives one terrible morning six years ago, it makes it all that much worse.
I was further saddened to learn on Sunday night that Firefighter Robert Beddia (pictured) was also a good friend of my pal Chris, and had frequented our old hangout, The Blind Tiger, over on Hudson and West 10th Streets. In 2004 and 2005, we'd go over to the Tiger after watching Red Sox and Patriots games over at the Riviera for some aftergame refreshment. (Thanks to Chris for the photo as well.) I'm sure that Mr. Beddia and I had met at some point one of those nights.
My deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the fallen firefighters, especially Robert Beddia.