Tribute Flags Attention to Lost

By Joshua Robin

September 15, 2002

She doesn't own a sailboat.

She doesn't go out on the water often, either.

But yesterday, Cathy DeRubbio's fingerprints were all over New York Harbor as the force behind an unusual tribute to the victims of Sept. 11.

Attached to the boats were 3,000 flags, each with the name of someone lost that day, including DeRubbio's brother-in-law, firefighter David P. DeRubbio, 38. He had been with the department since 1998 and was assigned to Engine Company 226.

"It's a wonderful tribute. We're hoping people look on and investigate this person to see what kind of a person they were," DeRubbio said.

She thought up the idea last October when the Manhattan Yacht Club, just west of the World Trade Center site, sent an invitation for her and her husband, Dom, to attend the Sailor's Ball.

Dom DeRubbio, an FDNY chief and one of four brothers in the department, took sailing lessons at the club. The couple couldn't go to the ball because a memorial conflicted with the date. But an event mentioned in the invitation - an open sail - got her thinking.

"Dom," she asked her husband, "Wouldn't it be great if we could get the names of some of the guys on the boats?"

She got to work, thinking only Fire Department victims would end up on the flags. But the Yacht Club commodore, Michael Fortenbaugh, convinced her to include all the victims.

She enlisted the help of Dema Joyce, the event coordinator of the New York Harbor Sailing Foundation. Together, they found a flag supplier willing to manufacture the flags for $12 each.

Within weeks, the pair received enough donations to pay for all 3,000 flags. And yesterday, DeRubbio and Joyce sat on the 14th floor of the Ritz-Carlton New York in Battery Park City, which afforded a luxury view of the biggest gathering of sailboats in New York history.