Friends, family honor fallen firefighter

Sunday, July 21, 2002

By JOE TACOPINO
ADVANCE STAFF WRITER


Family, friends and fellow firefighters who knew Assistant Deputy Chief Gerard Barbara gathered at Richmond County Bank Ball Park in St. George last night to pay tribute to a man who is not only regarded as a hero, but a community advocate, compassionate individual and a great friend.

Chief Barbara, who perished in the World Trade Center attacks, was remembered before the second game in a Staten Island Yankees double-header. He was remembered for courage and bravery that exemplified the heroic aspects of the Fire Department of New York during the rescue efforts of Sept. 11.

"My husband was a tremendous Yankee fan and was an advocate of the Staten Island Yankees," said his wife, Joanne Barbara.

Mrs. Barbara mentioned how the game was a wonderful way for friends and family to pay tribute to her husband.

"He would want them to celebrate his life this way," she said. "It's a little bittersweet because my husband loved coming here."

Chief Barbara's children, Paul and Caren Barbara, were on hand to throw out the first pitch of the second game of last night's doubleheader.

"I couldn't think of a better way to get my feet on the baseball field," said Paul Barbara. "I'm very appreciative to the Staten Island Yankees for what they're doing."

"We try to think of ways to positively remember my father with all the not-so-positive things going on in the world," said his sister.

Caren Barbara also explained how her father loved the stadium's fantastic view of Manhattan's skyline. But she noted that the view has been altered.

"Although the view has changed, the city should never try to recapture that view, it's gone forever," she said.

Two sons of Barbara's cousins, Robert Pellegrino and Kevin Kozlowski, served as guest batboys for the night and the crowd was treated to a fireworks display after the game.

Barbara, a West Brighton resident, was one of the highest-ranking officials in the Fire Department. He also held the highly regarded position of chief of fire prevention. On Sept. 11, Chief Barbara was leading the rescue effort inside Tower 2 when the building collapsed.

One of Barbara's major accomplishments was the adoption of the city's first residential sprinkler bill. The bill requires sprinkler systems to be installed in multiple-family dwellings.

Also, in what his wife described as a "tremendous thrill" for him, Barbara was contacted to inspect Yankee Stadium in 1998 after a 500-foot piece of concrete fell from the upper deck. The inspection gave the chief the opportunity to sit at the desk of manager Joe Torre and visit the locker rooms and dugout.

"He was one of the most beloved men," said Sam Pepper, recently retired from the Bureau of Fire Prevention. "There has never been a chief like him; there is never going to be a chief like him."

Firefighter Gary Sher, who was at the bottom of the South Tower when it collapsed, described Barbara as a "best friend and boss."

"You couldn't ask for a nicer guy," said Sher. ------------



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