|Death: ||Aug. 18, 2007|
New York County (Manhattan)
New York, USA
Two firefighters lost their lives Saturday fighting a major fire that broke out near ground zero in New York City at the abandoned former Deutsche Bank office tower, renewing painful memories of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They were members of a firehouse that had lost 11 in the World Trade Center disaster.
The firefighters who died, Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino, had been trapped and inhaled a great deal of smoke.
Beddia, 53, had been a firefighter for 23 years and Graffagnino, 33, had been a with the department for eight years.
Lisa Giunta, the owner of Arturo's Pizza, near the slain firefighters' firehouse remembered Beddia as easygoing and eager to help newcomers learn the ropes. But the firehouse's losses on Sept. 11 haunted him. It was hard for him to work with those plaques inside looking at him.
The blaze began about a dozen floors up and burned on multiple floors at the building, steps from where 343 firefighters lost their lives in the World Trade Center attack.
Badly damaged by the disaster, the once 40-story Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty St. is being dismantled.
Firefighters had to use ropes to haul hoses up from the street to douse the blaze, he said. Some firefighters used stairs to reach the burning upper floors; others smashed out windows to let in more air to reach the flames.
Five or six other firefighters were taken to hospitals with smoke inhalation, but their injuries weren't serious, Bloomberg said. No civilians were hurt.
The cause of the fire was unknown, but it might have been fueled by plywood boxes and other flammable supplies related to the dismantling work.
Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino had a lot in common.
They were both fun-loving, outgoing men. They both were renovating their homes. They both had two jobs. And they both survived 9/11 only to die at Ground Zero.
Beddia, 53, and Graffagnino, who would have turned 34 today, were killed Saturday while battling a blaze in the ghostly shell of the Deutsche Bank building.
Beddia, the senior man of Engine Co. 24/Ladder Co. 5 in Greenwich Village, was off on Sept. 11, 2001.
He was asleep when his sister, Barbara Crocco, 49, woke him to say that terrorists had just crashed hijacked planes into the World Trade Center.
"As soon as he turned on the TV and saw what was happening, he raced down there to help," she told The Post. "He was off that day, but he felt guilty. He ran to help his brothers."
Crocco found it profoundly ironic that her brother survived 9/11 only to die in the Deutsche Bank building.
"He was a true hero, and he loved his firefighting brothers," she said. "The fact that he died across the street from the 9/11 buildings is kind of eerie."
Ralph Venturino, Beddia's next-door neighbor on Staten Island, echoed Crocco's words.
"It's very frustrating," said Venturino, 51, who was helping Beddia remodel his 1983 two-door Alfa Romeo sports car. "The guy made it through 9/11 only to get killed by it anyway. He survived 9/11 and went back and died there. It's really a shame that 9/11 did finally catch up to him."
Beddia, a 23-year FDNY veteran, and Graffagnino, a firefighter for eight years, worked in a firehouse at Sixth Avenue and Houston Street that lost 11 men on 9/11.
Beddia, who also worked as a bartender at Chumley's pub in Greenwich Village, was "the cool big brother," said his sister, Susan Olsen.
"He took me to my first circus and taught me to drive and even took me to see The Who at Shea Stadium in 1982," she said.
The firefighter, who was divorced, broke up with his girlfriend a year ago and moved back to his one-story brick house in South Beach, Staten Island.
He began renovating the home, ripping up floorboards and piling furniture into a back room. He planned to get his firehouse buddies to help.
At the same time, Beddia enlisted his neighbor to reupholster the seats of his Alfa Romeo.
"He didn't have time to do the upholstering, so he left me the keys and said, 'Do what you can,' and I did and he was really happy about that," Venturino recalled. "He loved that car. It was his baby."
Venturino said Beddia never spoke of retiring.
"I believe he thought he would die on the job," he said.
Beddia's wake will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Harmon Funeral Home, 571 Forest Ave., Staten Island, relatives said. The funeral is tentatively scheduled for Friday at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Burial will be at St. Peter's Cemetery on Staten Island, next to firefighters from the borough who died on 9/11.
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Saint Peters Cemetery
West New Brighton
Richmond County (Staten Island)
New York, USA
Plot: next to firefighters from the borough who died on 9/11
Maintained by: Glendora
Originally Created by: Roger Gleitz
Record added: Aug 19, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial# 21020382