FDNY MIA items raise 20G

Donated to families of fallen Bravest


Show of Support: Firefighters from Engine 96/Ladder 54 donate $20,000 to the Thomas Elsasser fund, money raised from sale of memorial FDNY MIA 9/11 patches, decals and flags.

The remains of 140 firefighters killed in the World Trade Center attacks have been recovered, but to this day have never been positively identified.
Two Bronx firefighters devised a way to salve the grief of those fallen firefighters' families: a design for flags, patches and bumper stickers that has helped raise $20,000 to help Fire Department widows and orphans.

The FDNY MIA items have become word-of-mouth best-sellers, with more than a thousand flags and close to 5,000 patches sold to customers across the city and across the nation.

Yesterday, the firefighters at Engine 96/Ladder 54 on Story Ave. in Soundview presented a symbolic $20,000 check to the Firefighter Thomas Elsasser Memorial Widows and Children's Fund. The fund gives emergency help to the families of firefighters who die from natural causes or from an accident or injury suffered when not on duty.

While a line of duty death means the firefighter's widow receives his pension for life, a nonline of duty death means only three years of a firefighter's salary - about $150,000 - and three years' health coverage from the union pension fund.

And that often is not enough, explained Robert Straub, the Bronx Trustee and chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Uniformed Firefighters Association, which administers the Elsasser Fund, founded in 1992.

"In cases like this, the income is really gone," he said. "We have families who call and say, 'We need help,' and we do the best we can to help those families in most need."

The idea for the FDNY MIA items was first devised by now-retired Fire Lt. George Stonebridge; the first design was crafted by Firefighter Robert Piser.

"We wanted to do something from our end to try to show a remembrance, a memorial, for the members that were lost and for the families of those missing firefighters."

The flags sell for $40, the patches for $4 and the decals for $5. To order, send a check or money order to Piser at Engine 96/Ladder 54, 1689 Story Ave., Bronx, N.Y. 10473.


Originally published on November 7, 2003