A Firefighter Who Had Heart

By Collin Nash

August 16, 2002

You couldn't tell by looking at him, but Thomas Casoria, his father, Carlo, said, had one thing that made him a standout athlete and dedicated firefighter: heart.

A "husky" boy known for his baseball and football prowess, Casoria had a reputation among family, friends and comrades as a go-to guy, his father said. "He was amazingly strong and a very good athlete, the kind of guy that if you needed something done, you could always depend on him," Carlo Casoria said.

Thomas Casoria, 29, of Whitestone, was winding down his 24-hour tour with Engine Co. 22/Ladder Co. 13 in Manhattan when the terrorists slammed jetliners into the Twin Towers.

Based on accounts he heard, Carlo Casoria said, his son spent his final minutes on the 20th floor of Tower One. He had radioed his captain to report that he and two comrades from his company were carrying a paraplegic out of the towering inferno. A follow-up call, his father said, indicated he was responding to a Mayday. Moments later, the tower fell. Four firefighters from Engine Co. 22, including his son, died in the attacks, Carlo Casoria said.

Casoria's body was recovered April 8, his father said. He was buried Aug. 9 at St. John's Cemetery in Middle Village.

The senior Casoria said both his sons, Thomas and his older brother, Carlo, harbored dreams from their teenage years of becoming firefighters. Inspired in part by their cousin, Anthony Marden, a firefighter with Ladder 165 in St. Albans, they took the civil service test together and graduated from the fire academy side by side.

Thomas, who was initially assigned to Engine Co. 22 after he graduated from the academy in February 1999, served stints on rotation at Ladder 172 in Brooklyn and Engine 261 in Long Island City. He rejoined Engine Co. 22 about two months before the attacks.

Carlo said although he was older by more than four years, Thomas refused to let him and his older neighborhood friends shrug him off. "He was always able to keep up with us," Carlo said, particularly when it came to sports. "He just never quit." Carlo recalled how once during a game of flag football Thomas hobbled off to the sidelines after getting hit. His team trailed, so Carlo gestured to Thomas to get back in the game. Grimacing, he joined his team in the huddle. After hearing the call for a play they'd run through many times before, Thomas caught the ball about five yards off the line of scrimmage, his brother said, ran it in for a touchdown, and then hobbled off the field. "I thought he was acting," Carlo said of his little brother, "but when we arrived home, I noticed his ankle was practically purple."

His brother may not have been an actor, but he was quite the impersonator, Carlo said. No one did a better Ralph Cramden or Ed Norton. He was such a big fan of mob movies that he could reel off dialogue as if he'd studied the scripts. "He loved being in the firehouse, where he had a captive audience in his fellow firefighters," Carlo said. "He was a fun guy."

Professionally, though, Casoria was a serious team player, his family said. And his calling as a firefighter was the perfect setting to show the team player in him. In many respects, his brother said, he didn't consider what he did as work. "It was his life."