As we approach the 5th anniversary of the coordinated terrorist attacks on the United States in which so many lives were lost, it is right and proper that we remind ourselves and the world of what we all lost on that day. Robert J. Foti, brave New York City Fireman, was one of those great losses.
Robert Joseph Foti, son of Rosemarie and Joseph Foti, husband of Mary Grace, and father of 12-year-old Alycia, 11-year old Robert, and 4-year-old James, was 42 years old and supporting his family as a New York City firefighter. He had worked on Ladder 7 in Manhattan for 13 years.
The morning of September 11, 2001 began like most others as this hard-working, much-loved son, husband, father, and friend, was getting ready to go home after working an overnight shift. He called his wife at 8:40 to tell her he would be getting off work at 9:00. This was the last time anyone heard from Bobby, as he was called by family and friends. He died while saving others in the burning towers of the World Trade Center.
In the memorial held on October 6, 2001, family and friends mourned his loss with no remains to bury and no burial site to visit.
On September 10, 2002, the New York Times ran an article about him in which they told of a snapshot they referred to as “The Santa Claus Picture” which was displayed in the firehouse. Mary Grace, Bobby’s wife, had seen him and their son, James, in the bathtub with soapsuds beards like Santas. Bobby was chewing a cigar and had his arms around James. He protested laughingly at her intent to take a picture, but the result of her determination made a great photo.
On March 22, 2003, this story emerged: Bobby and Mary Grace honeymooned in Jamaica in June 2001. Both were stunned at the poverty they saw there. Bobby was killed only 4 months later, but a group called Food for the Poor raised money in the names of those rescue workers who perished in the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. With the funds raised they built many 12 by 12 wooden homes for impoverished families in Jamaica. They built one home for each of the rescuers who died in the World Trade Center, a total of 403 houses! Mary Grace Foti said she cried when she received the photo of the home built to honor Bobby. The photo showed the smiling recipient family standing proudly in front of their new home.
On March 23, 2003, Newsday magazine writer, Nick Iyer, wrote: “Robert Joseph Foti and his wife, Mary Grace, were driving home to Albertson from Old Westbury Gardens in August when they spotted an elderly woman in an old jalopy, stranded with a flat tire. Foti got out of his car and pried off the flat and replaced it with the spare. After he finished, the woman called him an angel and offered him $10 for his services. Foti refused, but the woman insisted. He took the money, but snuck it into her purse when she wasn't looking, his wife recalled recently. ‘That was just the type of guy he was. He was always helping people.’"
Iyer also told this story (paraphrased by me to shorten the story): After seeing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade last year with his family, Foti drove to his mother-in-law’s home, mashed the potatoes, carved the turkey and cleaned up after dinner. "He was always there," Mrs. Tastor said.
This notice was printed in the On Friday, October 15, 2004, at 1000 hours, there will be a street renaming ceremony honoring the memory of Robert J. Foti, who made the supreme sacrifice on September 11, 2001. The ceremony will take place at the corner of Grand Street and the FDR Drive, Manhattan. All off-duty members and their families are invited to attend as a mark of respect to the deceased. Members are requested to attend in dress uniform.
Following are some quotes from memorials written by family, friends and acquaintances:
From Mary Grace Foti, wife:
He was always stopping to help someone or doing the dishes. He would go on all the field trips with the mothers. It was his nature to help others, which explains why he became a fireman. He was very adventurous and outgoing. He liked to take risks. The more time that has passed, the harder it gets, the longer it has been since I've heard his voice. Things that were clear aren't so clear anymore. They say it has to get harder before it gets better. I guess that's where I am right now.
Captain Scott Dunn, Ladder 1 Everett Fire, Everett WA:
Rose Foti (Bobby’s mother) and I met for only a few minutes, but we had both lost a loved one in the attacks. When we got off the shuttle ride we were sharing, she gave me a shirt to give to my friend’s widow. The shirt was imprinted: “Before he was an Angel, Hero, Fireman, he was my son!”
Maryellen Teaman, friend:
Bob was a hero long before September 11. About four years ago when I was picking up my daughter from the Epiphany School on East 22nd Street, I saw a truck that was on fire, rolling down Second Avenue. It was veering toward 22nd Street. Bob was at the school picking up his kids. He saw the truck; he ran to it, opened the door, looking for the driver, who had gotten out of the truck blocks away, when it first caught on fire. Bob turned the ignition of,f the truck stopped, and a tragedy was averted. There were many kids due to come out of school at that time. The truck could have crashed into parked cars on the block. He did not give a thought to his own safety. I was in awe of his response. I called his house that night to thank him for being a hero.
Jeff, Violaine, Jeff Jr., and Joey Acevedo:
Bobby, we will miss you, I never thanked you for the time you helped Joey when he got hurt in 5th grade at the Yankee Game, I thought about it all the time and never took the minute to say thanks. We will miss your umpire days in PSLL and those awful calls you made (smile). You are a great guy and were very brave, you will be missed so will your sense of humor.
Those who have never met Bobby have missed out on a very unique person. Bobby was a very decent man who loved his family and adored his children. I grew up on Grand St. with Bobby. Bobby was one of the funniest people I knew. Bobby was always there to lend a helping hand. I’m proud to tell my children that I once knew a Hero Firefighter named Bobby Foti.
Bobby looked to enjoy his life and to spread happiness whenever he could. He was sharing and giving to friends and strangers alike. He played with his children, and gave them many memories which are sure to carry them through the rest of their lives. As a firefighter, Bobby was no stranger to helping people in trouble. I remember days when he and his good friend Jimmy helped pull struggling swimmers out of a riptide that threatened to pull them out to sea. Everyone knew Bobby. He was always talking to people. Never shy, he would turn to a new face just as likely as to an old friend. If there was a sudden burst of laughter, Bobby was probably nearby instigating it.
One of my best memories of Bobby was an episode of him and his brother Joe clowning around. I can’t clearly recall how it started, but I suspect Bobby was nudging his brother without respite. Joe jumped up and started to chase his big brother across the beach. In a wild lunge, Joe grabbed for Bobby, but only succeeded in grasping the leg of his bathing suit. Well, picture Bobby being dragged to a halt by the bottom edge of his suit. Gravity and Joe’s weight dragged the suit down a lot faster than it did to the rest of Bobby. Everyone on the beach got to see more of Bobby than they expected. Afterward, Bobby sheepishly returned to the group. He was a little bit red-faced, and still laughing about the whole thing. That was Bobby! He always made the most out of whatever life tossed his way. Events have conspired to take Bobby from our presence, but nothing can take the memories of his life among us. No act of man can eradicate the fact that he lives on in his three children.
When one looks at their faces, it is easy to see that Bobby lives on in each of them.
The void in our lives seems so much greater because of who Bob was. You always knew when Bob was in a room. He was blessed with such great looks and his charismatic personality. After the first day of school last year, he was the only one who knew everyone's name. At the end of the first week his firehouse was building us new bookcases. Anything that needed to be done that year Bob took care of it.
Finally,read this tribute - a poem written for Bobby Foti by
Don't think of him as gone away-- his journey's just begun.
Life holds so many facets --this earth is only one.
Just think of him as resting from the sorrows and the tears
In a place of warmth and comfort where there are no
days and years.
Think how he must be wishing that we could know today
How nothing but our sadness can really pass away.
And think of him as living in the hearts of those he touched...
For nothing loved is ever lost-- and he was loved so much.
Refer to this website for more information about the 2996 project and for links to other blogging tributes.