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Retired FDNY Chief, Whose Son was a Black Sunday Victim, Out to Save Firefighters

This proud father refuses to let a decade of grief for his son go up in smoke.

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Ten Years After Black Sunday Fire, FDNY Lieutenant’s Legacy Helps Keep Firefighters Safe

Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation provides equipment and training

On Sunday, January 23, 2005, six FDNY firefighters were forced to jump from a four-story Bronx tenement after they became trapped by fire while searching for victims in illegally divided rooms. Lt. Curtis Meyran and Firefighter John Bellew died from their injuries that day. Firefighters Eugene Stolowski, Brendan Cawley, Jeff Cool, and Joseph P. "Joey" DiBernardo were critically injured. Later that day, Firefighter Rich Sclafani died in a house fire in Brooklyn, making it the deadliest day for FDNY since September 11, 2001; the day became known as "Black Sunday."

A personal life safety rope carried by Firefighter Jeff Cool helped both he and Joseph DiBernardo to lessen the height of their fall. After the incident, Joey was promoted to lieutenant and continued to train firefighters across the country as a well known fire service instructor. Although, he still lived with the trauma of Black Sunday, he shared his story and stressed the importance of personal life safety ropes and training. However, the effects of that tragic day continued and on November 22, 2011, Joseph DiBernardo died from his Black Sunday injuries at the age of 40.

After Joey's death, a non-profit foundation was established in his memory in 2012 to keep firefighters safe. The Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation, carries on his legacy by training firefighters and providing grants to departments for personal life safety rope systems and training. An annual seminar is held to raise funds, along with the generous support of sponsors and individual donors. Since 2012, grants totaling over $27,000 have already been awarded to two departments in need.

Ten years later, firefighters from across the country will gather at the Hyatt Long Island on May 29 – 30, 2015, to train and remember Joey DiBernardo. Deputy Chief Joe DiBernardo, Joey's dad and Foundation president, says "it's hard to believe a decade has passed since the fire. There has been so much pain, suffering, tears and memories experienced by the survivors, families, and friends since that day. They will never be forgotten and Joey will live on through the work of his Foundation." For more information about the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation and the 2015 seminar visit www.joeydfoundation.org.

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