I must apologize for the delay in posting this story from FDIC. Several reasons for the delay. Some are related to the story; others are some personal stuff that has weighed on my mind for a while with the health of family member. What happened to me before the start of the climb is something I will remember for the rest of my life. The person I met brought a personal side to a fallen brother that still makes my eyes water up.
The 2013 FDIC 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb is about honoring our fallen brothers. Like everyone who signed up for the climb I was given the name of a fallen brother to honor. The name I carried was Joseph Agnello from Ladder 118. I took the time before the climb to learn a little about him. Joey was known for bragging about his toddler boys Sal and Vincent. He had been the target of good-natured ribbing about the way he rang the wrong bells in his first days at the house – hence his nickname Joey Bells.
We all have looked out the window of the rig and stared at the smoke rising from the fire that we’re heading to. However, take a look at the picture below and imagine what was going through their heads, going over the bridge, looking out the window and seeing the two towers like that. The picture below is a verified picture of Ladder 118 responding to the World Trade Center on September 11th. Firefighters studied the picture with a magnifying glass to make sure the truck on the bridge was Ladder 118. The rig’s orange stokes basket was upside down, a Ladder 118 trademark.
The firefighters of Ladder 118 are credited with saving countless lives from the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel. Elevator mechanic Bobby Graff worked frantically to save the lives of others at the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel on Sept. 11, and he remembers who saved his: “Tall firefighters with the numbers 118 on their helmets.”
Lt. Robert Regan and Firefighters Joseph Agnello and Peter Vega were found together on New Year’s Day, more than three months after their last tragic run together September 11th.
I was honored to carry Joseph’s name with on the FDIC 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb this year. What I was not expecting was for someone to be looking for me before the climb. Before the climb started a gentleman was walking around asking for “Mike Smith”. Turns out, that gentleman, John Agnello was Joseph’s cousin. John quickly broke down and almost brought me to tears. He showed me a few pictures of Joseph’s name at the 911 Memorial and told me a few things about him. I was so caught up in the moment I didn’t think to get his contact info. After John walked away a lady came up to me and said “that made my whole week at FDIC”.
I’m still trying to find out how to contact John, so if you know, please let me know. My plan is to always honor Joseph Agnello on every stair climb I do and continue to find out a little more about him and his family each time.