A Firefighting Family Moves On

By William Murphy
Staff Writer

September 9, 2003

He has seen the picture of his firefighter-father being dragged from the rubble of the World Trade Center, clinging to life after being buried alive for four hours. Now, he too is a firefighter.

Michael Reno, 28, works at a Lower Manhattan firehouse where a plaque on the wall above the sidewalk lists the names of the 10 members of Engine Co. 33 and Ladder Co. 9 who died Sept. 11, 2001. His father was one of the lucky ones who, though seriously injured, got out alive.

Michael Reno and his father, Armondo, 54, stood beneath the memorial plaque last week and talked about Michael's decision to become a firefighter in January 2002, barely four months after seeing that picture of his father.

"I was already on the (hiring) list . ... I still wanted to be a fireman, and everything that happened made it even more so," said Michael, who was an ambulance worker for the Fire Department at the time of the attacks. "I'd never back out. No."

Did the father have second thoughts about his son joining the department after Sept. 11? "No," Armondo replied, adding, "My wife did."

"She did, but she's got (another) son who's a Marine. She lived through it with me and she lives through it with him."

Michael said he calls his mother frequently. "If any big fires happen, I'm sure to let her know I'm all right," he said.

His father, last assigned to Engine Co. 65 on West 31st Street, retired last year on a disability pension.

He is still in pain and has limited movement in his left arm. "Oh yeah, especially when the weather gets like this," he said on a day of intermittent rain. "Old knit broken bones. You've got your aches and pains, but it's all right."

It would come as no surprise to those who know the Fire Department and its history that sons like Michael would follow fathers and brothers into the job, even after the loss of 343 department members on 9/11.

Michael was in an incoming class of 305 probationary firefighters that included at least four who had a father or a brother who were firefighters who died at the trade center.

The first year in a new firehouse is usually the toughest as the "proby" buys doughnuts, washes dishes and undergoes a sort of frat house hazing.

Armondo said he told his son what to expect. "Get ready for the ribbing when you go in the door. Bring the buns in the first day, the rolls and butter," Armondo said. "Don't fall asleep on the couch. The sink is your place. Pots and pans, dishes are yours."

Michael said he calls his father after every fire and reviews what happened. "He gives me advice and tells me about the wars he was in back in the 70s," Michael said.

After Michael walked into the firehouse to report for work, and Engine 33 rolled out on a run moments later, the elder Reno was again asked about his concern for his son's safety.

"I know he'll like it. I'm not really worried about him at all," Armondo said. "If it happens, it happens. Nothing you can do about it anyway."