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9/11: Portrait of FDNY hero

In a split second, the lives of people across the world changed forever; millions sat glued to their TVs in shock, watching the World Trade Center collapse.

While many people living on the West Coast never dreamed about meeting a hero from that day, those who traveled with adviser Greg Stobbe on his biennial New York trip, did just that.

While the publications classes visited New York City, during the week of March 12-16, they met up with 9/11 fireman, John Morabito. As they toured the Big Apple, the kids spent a sobering hour with the hero.

“I enjoyed listening to John’s stories because they were inspiring,” Chelsea Joy, ’09, said. “It’s not every day that you can meet someone who is willing and brave enough to risk his own life to save people he doesn’t even know.”

During the chaos six years ago, firemen from all over New York City came to fire station Number Ten in order to reach the buildings. In a mad rush to put on fire protection gear, many grabbed the wrong jackets before entering the burning towers.

“Because of the rush, we all just grabbed each other?s jackets,” Morabito, 12-year veteran of FDNY Ladder Ten said. “When we were clearing away the rubble, we couldn?t identify all of the bodies because the names on their jackets were wrong.”

At first many firemen were expecting to be involved with something no more than a large car accident. However that day soon turned the lives of the men at Number Ten into a living nightmare.

“I didn’t actually see the plane,” Morabito said. “All I saw was the billowing fire and smoke everywhere. At first I thought it was a big accident in front of the fire station.”

While the fire department was able to save about 30,000 people, the disaster claimed about 2,819 lives, including six men from Ladder Ten who went into the building with Morabito and 337 other firemen.

“Right after 9/11, I got married,” Morabito said. “September 11 made me realize how short and precious life really is. The whole experience made me fully understand that I need to cherish the people I love every day.”

Many surviving firemen retired after the ordeal in order to escape the constant reliving of the nightmare. Although he is the only 9/11 veteran left at the station, Morabito plans to fight fires in downtown New York City across the street from the former World Trade Center site as long as the city keeps the fire station open.

“I feel like I am apart of Number Ten, a part of the history here,” Morabito said. “If I left, it would be like I was abandoning the people here relying on me. As long as the city needs me, I am going to stay.”

Family ties Ten

After crawling out from Tower One’s collapsed lobby, Morabito discovered that his younger brother, Michael Morabito, also a firefighter with Engine 228 out of Brooklyn, had been sent to the scene an hour earlier.

Although he had just been running away from the buildings, Morabito turned around in an attempt to search for his missing brother. After five hours of searching, Morabito went back to work, putting out the many fires in and around Ground Zero.

While taking a break from the intolerable heat, Morabito looked up from is glass of water and saw his brother walk by.

“I grabbed a hold of Michael and said, ‘we gotta stay together!’ Right away I called my family and told them that we were both safe.” Morabito said. “They were praising God that we had made it.”

After listening to Morabito relive 9/11, many students received a serious reality check of which they were not expecting.

“The hardest thing to listen him talk about was the widowed families of the six firemen who died from that station,” Joy said. “The memorial that they had made for them was really sobering.”

The only two pieces left from the original fire engine Number Ten, were part of the hood, and a sidepiece, which was displayed in the station along with fireman tee shirts and baseball hats.

“I didn’t fully understand what he really happened on Sept. 11,” Ryan Martens, ’08, said. “It was really cool to meet a real hero, not just someone made up in a storybook.”

Like many other firemen, Morabito works only two days a week. The rest of the week he works for a small construction company called Chase Construction.

According to Morabito, despite working two low-paying jobs, Morabito cannot afford to live on Manhattan.

“Many firemen live in Brooklyn or in parts of Long Island,” Morabito said. “It is cheaper yet still fairly close to the (Ten) House.”

In order to contact Morabito, call FDNY Ladder Ten at 1-212-570-4210.

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