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The Daily



09-06-03: Local business makes plaque honoring New York firefighters


MINSTER — The faces of five Manhattan firefighters who perished in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will forever be etched in the minds of workers at a small business in this Auglaize County community.
A memorial plaque honoring the brave firefighters from Fire Engine Company 55 was manufactured at TradeMark Designs Inc. in Minster and shipped Friday to the New York fire house in time for a special dedication ceremony next week.
“We kind of babysat this piece, all of us,” said Linda Erb, sales/service representative for the company, which specializes in chemical etching. “This has touched everyone here. It’s heart wrenching. It brings it all back.”
Head shots of the five smiling men, ranging in age from 27 to 55, are arranged in a half-circle on the plaque in front of the New York City skyline as it looked before the horrific events two years ago.
With gentle but steady hands, production manager Trey McKinney tightened the bolts that attached a rustic axe head onto the bottom of the plaque Friday morning.
“I just wish this (9/11) had never happened,” said McKinney, as he stepped back to take one final look at the golden, 20-by-24-inch work of art.
The axe head is not only a sad reminder of the 343 New York City firefighters who died, but one of the few pieces retrieved from the demolished fire truck that brought the ill-fated crew to Ground Zero that day.
Eight of the two dozen firefighters assigned to Engine 55 were out on a reported gas leak when the first plane struck the north tower of the World Trade Center. They immediately headed to the scene 20 miles away.
Twelve-year veteran of the department, firefighter Paul Acciarico, recalled the sequence of events that day.
“They entered the lobby, we know they entered the lobby. They probably had orders to. Later we talked with people who saw them going up the stairs,” Acciarico, 37, said.
Then, as the men in full firefighting gear climbed the steps to help lead others away from danger, the unthinkable happened. The building began to collapse.
“They never had a chance,” Acciarico added.
Debris came tumbling down and people jumped in desperation from hundreds of floors above, as millions of Americans watched their television sets in horror. It wasn’t long before the men and their fire truck were buried in the rubble.
Vincent “Buddy” Zeccardi grew up just a block away from the 105-year-old fire house and now operates “Caffe Roma,” a small cafe just across the street. The 67-year-old knew all the firefighters well. He routinely waved good morning to them as he arrived for work each day and used to bring them homemade desserts prepared at his pastry business, he said.
It was Zeccardi who brought the idea for the plaque to Arista Trophies in New York, a client of manufacturer TradeMark.
“It was just something I wanted to do. I come from this neighborhood,” Zeccardi said in a phone interview Friday. “I got to know all these guys pretty well over the years.”
Zeccardi said he is close to the firefighters and worries about them like family. The feeling is apparently mutual. Zeccardi was invited to the fire station two weeks after the terrorist attack when President George W. Bush met the families of the deceased.
“It’s still hard to talk to them (the firefighters) about the ordeal,” said Zeccardi. “They still get choked up at times.”
The firefighters, Faustino Apostol, Robert Lane, Chris Mozzillo, Stephen Russell and Lt. Peter Freund, were all laid to rest between Oct. 6, 2001, and Jan. 12, 2002. Two of the men, Freund and Apostol, left behind wives and children.
As workers at TradeMark found out bits and pieces about the courageous victims and the families they left behind, they began to feel a connection to the pain and suffering that took its toll on our country without warning on Sept. 11, 2001. The tragedy took more than 2,800 lives that day.
“We’ve looked long and hard at the faces on this plaque, and we’ve wondered how the lives of so many families has changed the last two years,” Erb said. “We know they were good men, proud men, and they never batted an eye about going into that building. They just did their job.”


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