He Always Gave '110 Percent'

November 12, 2001

The sirens wailed nonstop in Brooklyn in the late 1970s, when the city was broke and arson was a growth industry. The firefighters of the "Tin House," the legendary Brownsville Quonset hut that housed Engine Co. 232 and Ladder 176, were tough men, many already hardened by tours in Vietnam, for whom duty and honor were words with real meaning.

It brought a rude awakening for the new generation of probationary firefighters, who would stroll in with their long hair and Huckapoo shirts, shocked to be handed a mop and a toilet brush, and ordered to brew fresh coffee for the senior men.

But Eddie Rall fit right in. Even then, friends say, he was squared away: hair high and tight, eyes open, mouth shut. It was not long before those qualities made him someone firefighters trusted with their lives.

"Everything was always 110 percent with Eddie," recalled Robert Galione, a fellow Rescue 2 firefighter and friend who was broken in at that firehouse two years before Rall arrived.

"He always knew where he was going and what he was supposed to do. We called him the pit bull, cause he'd get his teeth into something and wouldn't stop until it was mastered."

At Rescue 2's Crown Heights firehouse, where the two men wound up together until Sept. 11, that meant the tools were always shining brightest on the days it was Rall's turn to clean them. When he worked on the rescue rig, it was spotless down to the hubcaps. Rall spent hours in the rigging compartment, arranging the come-alongs, slings and grip hoists just so.

When his buddies wanted to have a little fun with Rall, they knew how to do it: They'd reach into the rig when he wasn't looking, switch a couple of the tools, sit back and watch him explode - then they'd laugh as he restored everything to perfect order in under five minutes.

Rall, 44, was just as dedicated to his Holbrook home, his health and his three sons, says Darlene Rall, his wife of 21 years, who met him on his graduation day from West Islip High School in 1975.

Eddie Rall got better-looking as the years went by, his wife says, with regular workouts at Extreme Fitness. He poured hours into coaching baseball with the Sachem Youth Athletic Group and the North Shore Royals, and guiding the development of sons Joseph, 16, Matthew, 14, and Daniel, 12.

He wasn't a romantic guy, but he liked to write in luncheon dates on his wife's calendar so they could talk about the kids and kick around ideas for the retirement getaway they planned to buy somewhere in another 10 years or so. He also loved to sit out on the back porch with a cigar and an ice-cold Coors Lite.

His wife is still waiting for his remains to be recovered from the World Trade Center, but the family has scheduled a memorial mass.

In the meantime, his wife has been focused on making sure her sons stay on top of their schoolwork, that one son finishes up well with marching band season and another is ready for basketball tryouts. School is a priority, she says, and their dad would want them to keeptheir eye on their goals. The boys have been fine with that.

"That's how he was - strong," she said. "I guess it rubbed off after all those years."

-- Elizabeth Moore (Newsday)