True Courage on Display, Every Month

Copyright 2002 Newsday, Inc.
Newsday (New York, NY)...05/15/2002

Dennis Duggan

What started as a lighthearted Hispanic version of the hugely popular firehouse "hunks" calendar was transformed by the horrific events at Ground Zero in September into a tribute to the 343 firefighters who died there. The fallen included two firefighters, Angel C. Juarbe Jr., of Ladder 12, and Hector Luis Tirado Jr. from Engine 23, both of the Bronx, who had already posed for the glossy calendar.

"We almost ditched the entire project," says Jody Mutmansky, marketing director for the Hispanic Broadcasting Corp., whose idea it was, and who said yesterday that "it was the firefighters themselves who asked us to go ahead with the event though two men had died."

Yesterday, Lt. Miguel A. Ramos, who is also president of the 40-year-old Hispanic Society, said he agreed with the decision to go ahead with the calendar.

"It's a tribute to those two men as well as all the firefighters, and we will use the proceeds from the calendar to dedicate college scholarships in their name," said Ramos, a New York fireman for the last 20 years. "This is the biggest project we have ever undertaken.

"Part of the money will be used for recruitment of more Hispanics into the department," he added, noting that 2.7 percent of the present firefighting force is Hispanic, even though Hispanics account for 27 percent of the city's population.

Ramos said the families of the two dead firefighters had agreed that the calendar ought to proceed as a tribute to the two men.

Costing $ 10 each, the calendars will be sold through Barnes & Noble and by firefighters appearing at events such as the Puerto Rican Day Parade next month.

It is also being plugged by Hispanic radio stations WADO/1280 AM and WCAA/105.9 FM. The former station is regarded as the "WABC of the Hispanic listening population," says Mutmansky.

It is actually an 18-month calendar and starts at the month of July, 2002 with a pensive photograph of the late Hector Luis Tirado Jr., father of five children, who says that "If I could be anybody in the world, it would be my father."

Tirado, 30, had a hard life, orphaned at 15 after both his parents had died. He became legal guardian of his three siblings and then the father of five after he married. He was divorced and working part-time as a waiter at the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park as well as a full-time firefighter when he answered the call from which he never returned.

The late Angel Juarbe, Jr., 35, is pictured in May 2003. A handsome man with an adventurous soul, he sold his beloved Ford Mustang three years ago to pay for a trip to Africa.

It seemed as though fate had chosen him for better things when he won $ 250,000 in a television contest in the summer of 2001 on the Fox television show "Murder in Small Town X," where contestants had to solve a fictional murder.

He also won a Jeep, which he promised to give to his father at a block party on the west side of Manhattan outside his firehouse. He also planned on setting up scholarships for his nieces and nephews and was going to give his mother, Miriam, the down payment for a new home.

But fate stepped in again when 9/11 sent him to Ground Zero, where he died helping another firefighter as they climbed the stairs, planning to put a rescue rope on the roof of the burning tower.

His mother said four college scholarships have already been provided, and that Jeep is to arrive in about a month, although "it will be a painful day when it arrives - I don't think we are ever going to use it," she said.

"My son wanted to buy us a brownstone in Manhattan, but we wanted him to buy it for himself. He was always thinking of other people."

Miriam paused. "I think the calendar is fine, and the photographer who took the picture of Angel sent me the original picture he took, and it's in a frame on a table in my living room," she said.