By RYAN SIT
A hero firefighter’s plaque was added to the Rescue Co. 3 firehouse wall in the Bronx on Tuesday on the first anniversary of his death – which was posthumously categorized as in the line of duty.
Lieutenant Joseph DiBernardo, Jr. died six years after he sustained critical injuries in the “Black Sunday” blaze in 2005 on East 178Street in the Bronx due to an accidental overdose of his medication. His heroic actions were remembered at the tearful ceremony where the plaque was unveiled.
DiBernardo’s name was also added to the “wall of honor,” at Fire Department headquarters Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano agreed that, although it took six-years, the “Black Sunday” blaze caused DiBernardo’s death. After reviewing DiBernardo’s medical history, “it became clear and indisputable that he in fact died from his body being broken that day,” he added.
“Thank you for sharing your son with us,” Cassano told the honoree’s parents, Joseph, Sr. and Barbara.
Standing at the podium before DiBernardo’s parents, Mayor Bloomberg said he thought of his own daughters. “I realize they are safe because of the men and women like the one we are honoring today,” he said.
On Jan. 23, 2005, an illegally subdivided apartment building on East 178 Street became a death trap. Two firefighters died after jumping from the fourth floor.
“We were pushed to the walls by flames,” said retired firefighter Jeff Cool, who watched DiBernardo’s bravery unfold in person that day.
DiBernardo told Cool, “you have a wife and kids at home, you should go first,” Cool remembered. DiBernardo used Cool’s personal rope to lower Cool out of the window.
Cool made it down only a few yards before falling almost four stories. DiBernardo rappelled out after Cool but when the rope snapped DiBernardo fell back to the street. DiBernardo spent 18 days in a coma and never fully recovered from the dozens of broken bones he sustained from the fall, despite numerous surgeries and medication.
“See you on the top floor my brother, my friend,” said Cool.
DiBernardo’s father, a former FDNY Deputy Chief, also took to the lectern to honor his son. He told how, as a boy, “Joey D” collected photographs of firefighters – the way other boys might collect baseball cards.
He would place them on his bedroom wall, a shrine of heroes. At the top of this wall of fame were photos of his father.
Now, on a wall in the Rescue Co. 3 house, Joey’s picture hangs on another wall of fame, joined photos of his fallen brothers.