Earlier this year, retired Navy SEAL and endurance athlete, David Goggins, put out his 4x4x48 challenge, which includes running 4 miles, every 4 hours, for 48 hours. When Jeffery Cool, Jr., a first responder in paramedic school, saw the call-to-action he knew that he “was hooked.” Not only did he accept this test of endurance, but he vowed to support the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation (Joey D Foundation), a charity that is close to his heart. He set a goal to raise awareness and $1,000 for the Foundation but did so much more! Through his efforts, he raised nearly $18,000 by training hard for five weeks, while promoting the Joey D Foundation to his social media followers.
When Jeffery was seven, his Dad, Jeff Cool, Sr., was critically injured on FDNY Black Sunday. The fire, in an illegally sub-divided Bronx tenement trapped firefighters from Ladder 27 and Rescue 3 forcing them to jump from a 4-story building as fire conditions worsened. Firefighters were faced with a split-second decision to burn in the fire or jump from the building to escape the raging inferno. This tragic day claimed the lives of Lieutenant Curtis Meyran and Firefighter John Bellew. Three others were also critically injured including Firefighters Eugene Stolowski, Brendan Cawley and Joseph DiBernardo. Later that day, Firefighter Rich Sclafani also died in a house fire in Brooklyn, making it the deadliest day for the FDNY since 9/11.
That day, Jeff Cool, Sr. had a personal safety system (PSS) that he bought for himself six months before the fire. Knowing that he had this way out, he yelled to Joey in the next window telling him to use the rope since he had nothing he could tie off to. Joey said, “You have a wife and kids, throw me the rope, and I’ll lower you.” Joey wrapped the rope around his body and arm. Jeff jumped out the window. The rope caused him to pendulum and lose control falling into the side alley. Then Joey tied the rope to a child gate and went out after Jeff; he was able to lessen his fall by about ten feet before he too lost control and fell into the rear yard below.
The survivors of the fire and their families, bonded forever, courageously battle with the scars of Black Sunday every day. Amid this tragedy, Joey and the Cool family remained close, and Jeffery and his brother Dylan gained an “Uncle Joey.” But sadly, in November 2011, the fire would also claim the life of their Uncle Joey, who died from his injuries.
After Joey’s passing, his family and friends started the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation, which provides funding to fire departments in North America to purchase PSS for their firefighters and offers training to keep them safe. Jeffery who wanted to give back, chose his Uncle Joey’s Foundation to make a difference in the lives of his brothers and sisters in the fire service.
“The runs were an absolute grind, but anytime I felt pain and felt sorry for myself, I thought back to that day with my Dad and Joey and what they went through and then I laughed at myself. I have no right to complain. Those guys are my heroes, and they push me to limits I never think I could go. They are my reason I never quit, and they are why I finished this challenge,” said Jeffery.
His endurance not only made him a stronger person, but it honored Joey and his Dad’s legacy. Jeffery also clearly understands and lives by the values that his Dad and Uncle Joey taught him, being “part of something bigger than myself.” He is an example for the next generation of firefighters. Jeffery’s ultimate goal is to follow in his Dad’s and Uncle Joey’s footsteps in the FDNY. We have no doubt he will achieve that goal and do great things. As Uncle Joey would say, “reach for the sky.” We are all so proud of you, Jeffery!