For Bravest, a Show of Support
LI City tenants host gathering for firefighters

By Bryan Virasami

October 14, 2002

There were no politicians, no speeches, no ceremonies - just a roomful of firefighters sharing food and beverages yesterday.

The informal gathering was designed to foster camaraderie between out-of-state and local firefighters as well as their hosts - primarily tenants in the Avalon Riverview high-rise in Long Island City.

"Solidarity, friendship and support" was how firefighter Lori Albert, of the Polkco Fire District in Independence, Ore., described it.

Albert was one of the thousands of firefighters across the country to visit the city over the weekend to rally with New York's firefighters for higher wages and attend Saturday's Sept. 11 memorial service at Madison Square Garden.

"We know that if anything ever happens on our coast, these guys would be coming to help us," Albert said.

The buffet lunch in the Hunters Point section of Long Island City was organized by John Mark Baburka, a former emergency medical technician who works with the Fire Department office that assists injured firefighters.

Baburka invited a handful of visiting and local firefighters, and the lunch included food donated from two restaurants in addition to home cooking provided by fellow tenants.

"We want to make sure we maintain the ties," Baburka said. "When we all have figure heads such as the president telling us we have to move on, this is a positive way to move on."

It was a pleasant end to an emotionally charged weekend. "I needed to be here, we needed to show our support for our brothers and to show they're still in our minds and we think about them everyday," said J.D. Watson, a fireman from Mesquite, Texas.