Firefighters' Recognition Day

at the Rotary Club of New York

April 16, 2002


19 photos from the great event

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Our annual Firefighter’s Recognition Day honored “The Lucky Six”, the heroes of the September 11 tragedy, along with Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.


The program began with music and signing by the children of the “Ambassadors of Peace Youth Orchestra”.  Their instrumentals added a melodic tone to a day of presentations and appreciation.




Giorgio Balestrieri and Carlos Bergantinoz presented a special “Fire Helmet” to Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, which was donated by Madrid’s Fire Department.  Gene Gottesman presented the Commissioner with a certificate from The Boy Scouts of America.



President Helen presented a plaque to Chief John Jonas, the chief of the Ladder CO# 6 in Chinatown, expressing the New York City Rotary Club’s appreciation to the six firefighters being honored,, and their families, who were also present.




Chief John Jonas told us his personal account of the events of September 11 in vivid and moving detail.  We’ve all heard and read these stories, but to be told first hand of the experiences was chilling.  The stark realities that these men faced as they realized that New York City was under attack, not knowing by whom, and wishing each other “good luck”, knowing they might not live through this – they did what they knew they had to do.  These heroes came across Josephine Harris in the North Tower, as they felt the South Tower collapse and began evacuation.  They were on the fourth floor when they began to feel their tower collapsing, and the description of what they heard, saw, felt was combined with their commitment to getting Josephine Harris out with them.  After 3 ½ hours of darkness, a ray of sunshine showed other firefighters searching for survivors, and they were rescued. 

When Chief Jonas expressed his gratitude to each of his men and spoke of the honor he felt in being their captain, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  He expressed how they are all dealing with survivor’s guilt and the loss of close friends, and how their comrades and families were supporting each other, even in wanting to show up as a unified group to today’s program.




New York Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta with President Helen Reisler.



Rotarian Dr. Jeffrey Burkes introduced Fire Commissioner Scoppetta. The commissioner expressed gratitude to President Helen and the Rotary Club for our consistent honoring of the FDNY, and the profound sense of sadness when reflecting on 9/11 and the loss of 343 men, while noting that the Fire Department played the biggest role in a successful rescue operation. The Fire Department and The Rotary share the service-above-self philosophy. He spoke of the political and budgetary challenges facing his department in very clear and concise terms, and closed by celebrating the miracle of the six surviving heroes with us.







Written by Lillian Coury

Photographed by Matts Ingemanson



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