E S P O N S E T O T E R R O R
Reach Out to Their
New York Comrades
$2.25 million to a
that lost 11 men Sept. 11
By JOHN J. GOLDMAN
TIMES STAFF WRITER
that all firefighters are family, more than 120 members of the Los
Angeles Fire Department presented a $2.25-million check Saturday to their
New York counterparts in a ceremony marked by hugs, handshakes and a
This donation was made at a Manhattan firehouse
that lost 11 of its members in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the
World Trade Center.
"We represent the kids who had lemonade stands, who
came to fire stations with their piggy banks, saying, 'Can you bring
this back for us?' "said Capt. Stephen Ruda, a 24-year
veteran of the LAFD.
"Our fellow firefighters here in New York
suffered a great loss," he said. "What the
firefighters did here in New Your for the fire service in general
brings to the attention, whether you work for a big city like Los
Angeles or New York or a small volunteer company in the Midwest or the
South or an organized company, we are ready to do the same."
The California contingent gathered on the sidewalk
in front of the firehouse, its walls decorated with items from
schoolchildren mourning the lost members of Engine 40 and Ladder 35.
Inside, firefighter Mike Kotula, who has served at the
house for 19 years, stood quietly alongside one of the engines.
"It's overwhelming," Kotula said.
"It means a lot, a real lot. It just shows we are all
brothers throughout the country."
John Barnych, who has fought fires in New York for 11 years, said
"it's difficult how to handle all this."
Barnych said seeing the children who were left behind has
been especially straining. "One member had a really
touching memorial video, and it was very hard to watch. It is
very emotional for the kids, everybody."
To show their sympathy and solidarity, the Los Angeles
firefighters plan to visit other firehouses, attend funerals and tour
the World Trade Center site.
"It is something I felt I had to do because of
that bond that we share with our brothers in New York,"
said firefighter Raul Miranda, who made the trip.
"To get the welcome we have received here in
this city is absolutely incredible," said Wendy Cumings, an
L.A. paramedic. "All anyone wants to do is lend a hand to
these families and make sure that they can get through this."
After the donation ceremony, the firefighters
boarded buses for a church on the east side of Manhattan for the funeral
of Fire Lt. Robert B. Nagel. While trapped under the rubble of
the twin towers, Nagel asked over his radio for a roll call to try to
be sure his men were safe. There was no fear in his voice.
"He was in the worst position of his
life," firefighter Michael Fitzpatrick, who served with
Nagel, said during a eulogy.
Referring to the firehouse that Nagel left
behind after pulling on his boots that fateful Tuesday morning,
Fitzpatrick added: "There was a pair of shoes left on the
apparatus floor that morning that will never be filled."