Monday, September 10, 2012

In Memory of a 9/11 Hero

Michael Ragusa, 29, NYC Firefighter
Photo courtesy NYC Fire Department
Michael Ragusa’s Final Gift
By Carolyn Wall

On September 11, 2001, the parents of Michael Ragusa, a Brooklyn firefighter, arrived in Payson. They had reservations to stay at the Best Western Payson Inn.
They had been traveling around the country on vacation - Payson to Phoenix was the last leg of their journey. They had plans to catch a plane at Sky Harbor Airport and would head back home to New York City in two days.
But their plans were changed by the awful events of 9/11.
They had heard about the attacks in New York City and came in from their travels anxious to talk to family members, full of hope that their son, Michael, was safe. They had heard from relatives back home that Michael was in the staging area at the World Trade Center.
They checked into the hotel and began the task of tracking down the information on the whereabouts of their 29-year-old son.
They had planned to stay at the hotel just a couple of days, but extended their stay to nearly a week awaiting word from relatives. The phone rang constantly with words of encouragement, but no information on Michael’s whereabouts. As the days went by the Ragusas began to fear for the worst.
After a while, they refused to leave their room. They continued to receive phone calls. Friends and relatives back east left messages, but there was still no word about their son when they left Payson. Weary and discouraged,  they left the hotel to return to their home in New York City.
Two years later, on September 8, 2003, Michael Ragusa was the last of the 343 New York City firefighters to be laid to rest, an event the Ragusas thought would never happen.
As other families held funerals and memorials for lost firefighters, the Ragusas waited because they desperately wanted to bury the young Brooklyn firefighter's remains. They always knew their chances of finding his body were slim.
Of 2,792 people who died in the attack, the medical examiner identified the remains of less than one-half by DNA samples..
Hope was running out for the Ragusas when they discovered Michael’s charity to others would touch them in a way they could not have predicted.
They discovered their 29-year-old son had donated blood to a bone marrow center before he died. The donation that was meant to help someone else's life ended up helping his family celebrate his.
On September 8, 2003, the Ragusas held a funeral for their son, Michael. It was the last of the funerals for the firefighters killed in the World Trade Center. 
“He left behind life, a tiny vial of blood that flowed within him when he was alive,” said Dee Ragusa, Michael's mother, at his funeral. “How he must have loved us— how proud we are to call him our son.”
Ragusa's casket contained all that the family could gather that was important to him - the vial of blood, his uniform and other personal mementos his mother believes he would have wanted to be buried with.
“It took two years, but you get realistic,” Dee Ragusa said on ABC NEWS'  "Good Morning America”  “We were so blessed to have that vial of blood … the identifications are winding down,’ she said.
The funeral for Michael Ragusa of Engine Co. 279, was held in Bergen Beach, the Brooklyn neighborhood where he was born and raised. Bagpipers played "Amazing Grace" and firefighters in dress uniform saluted the fire truck carrying his coffin as it made its way to the church.”
The Ragusa family had finally laid their son to rest.

Funeral notice courtesy of New York City Fire Department
Editor's note: This reporter was a front desk clerk at the Best Western Payson Inn on duty the day the Ragusas arrived, September 11, 2001. The above account is taken from the events of that day and the days that followed and an investigation into what happened to Michael Ragusa and his family after the Ragusas left Payson. The following year this reporter traveled to New York City and found that Michael Ragusa had indeed died in the World Trade Center. Michael Ragusa's name was engraved on the wall that had been erected to commemorate the victims of 9/11.  The wall surrounded the giant hole in the ground that had been the World Trade Center. The victims of this national tragedy will never be forgotten, nor will their families.  The story of Michael Ragusa has been published every year since his death. Since 2003,  the story finally concludes with his funeral, the burial of the one small vial of what was meant to be life-giving blood.

1 comment:

  1. Dit is voor het eerst dat ik "In Memory of a 9/11 Hero" bezoek en ik ben prettig onder de indruk
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