Galesburg firefighters pay their respects.

by John Ring

Michael Elferis, Engine 22, firefighter Š Patrick Byrne, Ladder 101, firefighter Š Greg Buck, Engine 201, firefighter Š Robert Crawford, Safety Battery 1, firefighter Š

On some days, there are five funerals. On other days, there are three. And once in a while, there's just one.

Funerals. Firefighter funerals.

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani -- before September 11, 2001 -- took pride in attending every police officer or firefighter funeral. He felt the need to be there, say some words of comfort to the family and represent the City.

But now on some days, he can't make them all. There are too many. Three hundred forty-three firefighters died that day in New York City.

Mayor Giuliani attended the funeral for Dennis Scauso last Monday in Melville, Long Island. Scauso died in Tower 2 on September 11th and left a widow and four kids.

''Nobody can take your Daddy from you,'' Giuliani told Scauso's children. ''It can't be done. Your Dad is going to remain with you forever and ever.''

It had been 76 days since the attacks. Dennis Scauso was still missing. No remains. Nothing to bury. No closure. Only 34 firefighters have been recovered from the site.

But one by one, the widows are making the call. At Scauso's visitation, FDNY firefighters posted two honor guards near a photo of Dennis and firefighting turnout gear.

The Galesburg Firefighters Association -- Local 555 -- sent three of its representatives to attend funerals in New York City. A vast memorial service at Madison Square Garden scheduled for September 18th had been postponed because of tensions running high between New York firefighters and police due to a cutback of firefighters permitted at Ground Zero. City officials didn't think it was wise to mass a group of 30,000 firefighters from across the country together in that kind of atmosphere.

''It was just a one day thing,'' said a firefighter who was working at the site. ''The rank and file cops get along with the rank and file firefighters. On that day, it was just a case where a couple of higher ranking police officers flaunted their authority. But it didn't last long.''

Crews work 24/7. When they find a body, work is shut down, firefighters move in and remove the remains, cover it with an American flag and escort it to the ambulance -- regardless of whether the body is that of a firefighter or an innocent victim who was in the Tower.

The perimeter of Ground Zero is blockaded by the police. But as firefighters from around the United States converge on New York, they are allowed to enter.

It's no longer just a site. To them, it's sacred ground.

Ronald Kerwin, Squad 288, Lieutenant Š Christopher Santora, Engine 54, firefighter Š Lawrence Veling, Engine 235, firefighter Š Lawrence Stack, Battalion 50, Battalion Chief Š Raymond Downey, SOC, Deputy Chief Š

With so many dead, the victims become faceless. Local 555 firefighters attended a wake and two memorial services -- those of Michael Lynch and Dennis Scauso.

What were they like? How old were they? What station did they work out of? What happened to them on September 11th?

Michael Lynch, Ladder Company 4, Firefighter

''What kind of guy was Michael Lynch?,'' said one of his firefighter coworkers. ''I'll tell you what he was. There are two different kinds of guys that get on the Department. Those that got on the job and those that get into the job. He was a guy that got into his work.''

Lynch was just 33 years old, married for five years and had two kids. He worked out of a firehouse in mid-Manhattan, just a few blocks from the Ed Sullivan Theater and Broadway itself. Lynch had been on the job 11 years and was close to being promoted.

Ladder Company 4 -- along with Engine 54 -- responded from their station after the first Tower was hit. They were among many firefighters who were dashing upstairs while occupants were fleeing the other way. Amid the chaos, those escaping actually stopped and applauded firefighters -- wearing over 50 pounds of gear and carrying tools and equipment -- who were running up the stairwells.

The aircraft that ripped through the Tower sheared all the elevator cables, leaving many dangling and occupants trapped at the mezzanine level. Lynch and his partner came upon an elevator, heard people screaming for help and stopped. They were unable to pry the doors open. Lynch came upon the idea of using a Hurst tool, commonly referred to as the ''Jaws of Life,'' to pry open the doors.

Lynch ran down the stairway he had just climbed, went out to the truck, got the Hurst tool (which is heavy in itself), and then tore back upstairs to the elevator.

He never came back. Neither did 14 other firefighters from Ladder 4 and Engine 54, which were both virtually wiped out when the Tower crashed down on them.

Lynch's body has not been recovered.

Joseph Maffeo, Ladder 101, firefighter Š Christopher Mazzillo, Engine 55, firefighter Š Dana Hannon, Engine 26, firefighter Š Christopher Pickard, Engine 201, firefighter Š Vernon Richard, Ladder 7, Captain Š

Dennis Scauso, Hazardous Materials 1, firefighter

Dennis Scauso was 46 years old, married to Janlyn (an elementary school teacher) and had four children. He was what you would call a ''born rescuer.'' As a kid, he saved stray animals. He repaired cars. He built a treehouse. He loved watching the Three Stooges everyday.

He wasn't even supposed to be at work on September 11th. But some of the other firefighters in his unit were having medical tests done so Dennis Scauso was called back in.

Scauso worked out of a station in Long Island -- far away from the Towers. But they rolled on the initial call because they were a hazardous materials response team. It was a 25-minute response downtown and the first Tower had collapsed.

Despite that, the crew of Haz Mat 1 rushed into the north tower to evacuate people and try to at least fight the fire.

Scauso never came out. Neither did many of the other firefighters from Haz Mat 1.

Robert Evans, Engine 33, firefighter Š Brian Sweeney, Rescue 1, firefighter Š Michael Carlo, Engine 230, firefighter Š Scott Kopytko, Ladder 15, firefighter Š Brian McAleese, Engine 226, firefighter Š James Pappageorge, Engine 23, firefighter Š

The digging goes on. Two bodies were recovered last Monday -- Michael A. Pelletier, age 36 and Angela Susan Scheinberg, age 46.

The firefighters working at Ground Zero will tell you they are running on pure adrenaline, that they're doing fine. They truly appreciate the support of thousands of firefighters who are coming to New York. They reject the notion that they are better than any other firefighter -- paid, volunteer, small department, big department.

''What you do in your hometown is the most important thing you can do,'' said an instructor from the NYC Fire Academy. ''You take care of the people there. You just being here means a lot to us. The only good that has come from this is the fact that a lot more people appreciate what firefighters do.''

Who else but Rudy Giuliani should have the last word.

''Firefighters have been so brave and so courageous that they require the rest of us to be that way,'' said America's Mayor, ''or at least, try to be. Their courage, selflessness and professionalism saved more than 25,000 lives that day, making it the most successful rescue operation in our nation's history.''

''They were true American patriots. They gave their lives in the defense of our liberty.''

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online December 3, 2001

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