Philly’s Firefighters and Cops Come to the Aid of a Brother
In times of need, firefighters rally around their brothers and sisters. “It seems like Hollywood in a way, but if you talk to firefighters, there’s really a unique bond between all of us,” says Anthony Dello Russo, a seven-year Philadelphia firefighter stationed at Ladder 16 in Kensington.
This Saturday, that camaraderie will be on full display as the city’s firefighters, together with their colleagues in blue, gather at Maggie’s Waterfront Cafe on North Delaware Avenue in the Northeast for the “Honoring Heroes Block Party.” Among the beneficiaries will be Ladder 16’s Patrick Nally, 25, who was injured in the five-alarm April 9 Kensington warehouse fire that claimed the lives of Lt. Robert Neary, 60, and firefighter Daniel Sweeney, 25, both of Ladder 10. All three firefighters will be honored. The event also benefits the Philadelphia Living Flame Memorial at Franklin Square, a monument erected in 1976, now undergoing redesign and rededication.
Dello Russo, who’s helping organize the early-summer event, was among those who responded to the blaze, on a night when he should have been off duty. “I was working for someone that night,” he recalls. “It had a profound impact on me.”
Of course, Dello Russo knows Nally well. And like the other firefighters at Ladder 16, Dello Russo knows Nally could use a little help. Nally suffered disabling injuries to his back and pelvis when the roof of an adjoining fire-damaged furniture store roof collapsed on him, Neary, Sweeney, and firefighter Francis Chaney.
“He’s only receiving 80 percent of his pay,” says Dello Russo says of Nally. “While he’s out, he doesn’t accrue any sick time or vacation time. He’s getting married in four weeks. The wedding is going to go on as planned, but they had to cancel their honeymoon. Pat owns a house right around the corner from me, so obviously he still has to pay his bills. There’s been a bit of a financial crunch.”
Since the fire, Dello Russo says, Nally is starting to get around better, but “there’s a limit to how far he can travel and how long he can stay up.” Fortunately, the young firefighter won’t have far to go to attend his own benefit. “Pat is staying with his parents, who live 50 yards from Maggie’s,” says Dello Russo. “He’s the guest of honor, and we want him to attend. That was paramount.”
Tickets for the benefit are on sale for $25 apiece, which covers the cost of admission, beer and food.There’s music, too, of course, including performances by the cover band Saturn, an excellent band comprised mostly of Philadelphia police officers, called District Blue, and the great Irish band Jamison.
Maggie’s is an indoor-outdoor venue, but the party is likely to spill over, so the 9200 and 9300 blocks of North Delaware Avenue will be blocked off for the day. There’s Fairmount Park land across the street as well.
An event of this size has the potential to disrupt local life, so organizers took it up with the Holmesburg Civic Association. They were fully supportive, Dello Russo says. “We were very appreciative of that.”
Several weeks have gone by since the blaze, and firefighters have mourned their loss during that time. The block party, Dello Russo says, has the potential to bring them together, along with members of the community at large.
“One of the big things we discussed and were emphatic about, is that it (the block party) is supposed to foster community,” sayd Dello Russo. “I know it’s primarily to help Pat out financially, but speaking for myself, it’s cathartic in a way, for civilians and uniform alike. It’s cool to come out and hang out with us. It’s cool when people appreciate what you do.”
Maggie’s is at 9242 North Delaware Avenue. You can pick up tickets at any one of four places:
- Philadelphia Fire Fighters & Paramedics Union Local 22, 5th and Willow Street
- Engine 7, Ladder 10, Kensington and Castor Avenues
- Ladder 16, Belgrade and Huntington Streets
Tickets also will be available at the door on the day of the event. The party goes on from 2 to 6 p.m.