'The Flying Fireman' Was a Dad First

February 11, 2002

Ronald Bucca knew.

He knew all about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida long before they became part of the American lexicon.

The 46-year-old city fire marshal investigated the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

"He said he felt they [the terrorists] believed they hadn't done the job properly," said his wife, Eve Bucca, from Tuckahoe in Westchester. "He had always said that there would be a terrorist attack again."

So there he was Sept. 11, racing to the World Trade Center, a nine-year fire marshal whose first instinct was to rush to the site of destruction because of his 14 years as a city firefighter.

"I think he felt, too, that because he was so familiar with the building, he really could be an additional asset out there," his wife said. "That building was a hobby of his."

Bucca, who worked for Rescue One, was last spotted heading for the 74th floor in Tower Two when he was separated from his supervisor. His body was recovered near a stairwell Oct. 23. A memorial service was held Nov. 10.

Bucca had no fear. He was someone who, in 1986, had fallen from a five-story building while responding to a fire in Harlem. He broke his back and kneecaps and was in a body brace for six months.

"From the time he was lying on the stretcher waiting to go into the MRI, he said he was going back to Rescue One," his wife said.

One year later, he did, and thereafter was known as "the Flying Fireman."

Bucca was also a military man for 29 years, working for the army as a reservist with the 11th Special Forces Group and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was on active duty for two years with the 101st Airborne Division. Last month, he was promoted to a warrant officer in the U.S. Army Reserves.

The fit, mustached Bucca had an adventurous streak. He was scuba-certified, was a paratrooper and did archaeology work in Spain.

When his wife met him in 1975, at a first-aid class at night school, he had no car, but a Honda 500 motorcycle. They married two years later. The couple had two children, Jessica, now 24, and Ronald, now 21.

Bucca was known for his razor-sharp wit, sarcasm and his "Ron-isms," which included everything from "Take Murphy's Law and multiply it," to "I need this like I need a heart attack" to military-like commands such as "stand fast."

He was a man who loved spending time with his family, whether it was backpacking across Europe or taking long, evening walks with his wife.

In his memorial service program, his children wrote:

"... He was a Fireman, a Soldier, a Nurse, a Walking Encyclopedia of Knowledge and an Adventurer, but most of all, he was one of our Best Friends and an incredible Dad. We love him tremendously and our hearts are broken at the thought that he is not here with us, but that's not entirely true.

"Our Dad will always be with us.

"Wherever we go and whatever we do, he is part of us - a legacy that we continue with pride and with honor.

"And, Dad, if you happen to come across this, wherever you are, stand fast."

-- Sumathi Reddy (Newsday)