During the immediate weeks following September 11th, members of Engine 225, Ladder 107, Battalion 39 (pictured above), established “The Faithful and Fearless WTC Family Fund” in memory of the 343 firefighters that gave their lives and as a way to help care for the families they left behind.
During the difficult week of 9-11, between 24-hour tours at Ground Zero, Fireman Matthew Yellico stopped for a quiet moment at the firehouse. He wanted to do something to show his love and respect for his brothers who made the ultimate sacrifice during that tragic week. He wanted something that would show honor to them and his country. He began with an American flag, the symbol of our nation, followed by the Maltese Cross, which is the symbol for the fire department. Soon his fellow brothers in the company joined in. They added purple and black bunting with the words “In memory of our fallen brothers” to represent their mourning. They put in “WTC” so all would remember the sacred ground where their brothers gave their lives. They added “FDNY Bravest” for the courage and fortitude the department has always shown. Finally, they put in “God Bless America” to ask our Lord to bless and watch over our country. With all these thoughts in their hearts, they designed their “Memorial Maltese Cross” in memory of 9-11.
I cannot begin to tell you how touching it was to see these men making and sewing these Memorial Patches onto their bunker gear. They did so with such honor and fidelity.
As the project began to unfold, the enthusiasm from the companies lead to the creation a magnetic decal using the same design. They thought it would be an awesome dedication to display these apparatus magnets on the fire trucks. With the first one in hand, they went to Engine 290’s and Ladder 103’s firehouse, and presented it in honor of Captain Timmy Stackpole and others who served in those companies.
While Matt and his brothers in the firehouse worked on the Memorial Maltese Cross, his wife Fran and their six children were inspired to make something to show the magnitude of love and sacrifice shown by these brave firefighters on September 11th. They envisioned the fallen firefighters being lead from the Twin Towers, up the ladder of a fire truck to the gates of Heaven. This heartfelt mural quickly became the design for the back of the Memorial T-Shirts.
Recognizing the effort everyone was putting in and the overwhelming response received, Chief Robert Keys came up with an inspiring plan for a much needed fundraiser. He visualized a fund for firefighters, run by firefighters. Keeping 225/107/39’s long time motto of “Faithful and Fearless” in mind, he established “The Faithful and Fearless WTC Family Fund.”
Before long, flyers were sent to all FDNY firehouses. A variety of firefighting magazines and newspapers began running the fund’s ads. Then Captain James Corcoran put together a Web site. Suddenly, orders were coming in from all over the world.
Between tours at the firehouse, runs, and tours at Ground Zero, these guys steadfastly filed orders. It kept the whole firehouse extremely busy, but it was a labor of love.
A few months later, firefighter Kevin Burke hatched a plan to host a “Tribute to Heroes Dinner.” The evening fundraiser received a wonderful response.
One tremendous boost came in February of 2002, when President George W. Bush, came to New York City to meet with some of the first responders. Firefighters Matthew Yellico, Billy Seiter and Mike Suwalski presented him with one of the Memorial Apparatus Magnets. I cannot begin to express the joy and honor they felt when our president told them he “was going to hang it on his plane”. The next day, they found a huge picture of the President holding their magnet on page 3 of the New York Post. It truly was a memory they will cherish forever.
All in all, the fund went through approximately 20,000 T-Shirts, thousands upon thousands of patches and stickers, and a few hundred apparatus magnets. Through the unceasing efforts of Engine 225, Ladder 107, and Battalion 39, the Faithful and Fearless WTC Family Fund raised more than a quarter of a million dollars.
On June 2, 2004, after the FDNY Medal Day ceremony at City Hall, the Faithful and Fearless WTC Family Fund donated $130,000.00 to The UFA Widows and Children’s Fund and $130,000.00 to The Bravest Scholarship Fund.
This is just one example of the effort from one firehouse in East New York, Brooklyn. Multiply this by the 225+ firehouses in New York City and you will have a glimpse of how much devotion and love FDNY members have for the people they serve and each other.