Run to Remember Fallen Firefighter;
Batt. chief's kin kicks off race, scholarship

Copyright 2002 Newsday, Inc.
Newsday (New York, NY)...09/15/2002

By Daphne Sashin. STAFF WRITER

For John Paolillo of Glen Head, there was only one way to run: fast, focused and with others sputtering behind him.

Once, he gave his sister a detailed lesson on the finer points of running, such as how to breathe properly, where to place her feet and how to pace herself. Then he left her in the dust, shouting behind him, "Sheila, keep up!"

So it seemed fitting that when his family was looking for a way to memorialize Paolillo, 51, a battalion chief in the New York City Fire Department killed when the World Trade Center collapsed, they should hold an annual race in his honor.

"He was always running around the neighborhood," said his younger brother Joe, who lived three blocks away and wanted to do something "to remind people around here of my brother and what happened to him."

At 9 a.m. yesterday, about 400 people clogged the road outside the Glenwood Landing Fire Company to participate in the first 5-kilometer run, proceeds of which will go to the John Paolillo Memorial Scholarship Fund to benefit a North Shore High School graduating senior each year.

The first award went to Pamela LaTorre, who mentored ninth-graders and exhibited the values of leadership and selflessness, principal Dave Seinfeld said yesterday.

Several of the race participants knew John, his wife, Donna, or his children, Jake, 10, and Ella, 8. Others did not, but said they didn't need to.

"When (Paolillo) passed away, Glen Head is a small town and everyone felt it," said Marianne Welden, 41, whose 8-year-old son, Patrick, was among the third-graders from Glen Head Elementary School who participated.

Varsity cheerleaders from North Shore High School waved their burgundy and white pom-poms as the runners made their way over the hilly course. Eighteen minutes later, firefighter Brian Pike of Levittown ripped through the yellow finish tape, sweat rolling down his FDNY tank top. Pike was one of two dozen runners from Engine Co. 53 in East Harlem, where Paolillo was a captain until he was promoted to battalion chief at Special Operations Command headquarters on Roosevelt Island.

Organizers had been hoping to raise $ 5,000. Around 10 a.m., Josephine Paolillo, John's sister-in-law, revealed the good news through tears: The race had brought in more than $ 20,000 in contributions.

"That's because it was John," she said.