Hurt Bravest battling back


Some winks are worth a thousand words.

Even as he battles an infection, Firefighter Eugene Stolowski has been taken off his respirator and is communicating with his pregnant wife by blinking, it was revealed yesterday.

Stolowski, 33, is one of three firefighters still in critical condition after the Jan. 23 fire in the Bronx that claimed the lives of two of New York's Bravest.

The firefighters were forced by flames to jump out a fourth-story window.

Jeanette Meyran, wife of Lt. Curtis Meyran, who died in the leap, visited Stolowski last week at Weill Cornell Medical Center.

"I asked if he knew who I was and he blinked once for 'yes,'" Meyran said. "He wanted to talk to me so badly, tears were streaming down his face. Curt would have been proud."

Eileen Bellew, whose firefighter husband John Bellew also died, was elated when she heard of Stolowski's progress from his wife, Bridgid, who is pregnant with twins.

"These are great people," she sid, "and great people deserve to live."

Firefighter Joseph DiBernardo Jr., 34, is also fighting for his life at Weill Cornell. DiBernardo Jr. is out of his induced coma, according to his father, but still is unable to communicate.

"He's heavily sedated," said Joseph DiBernardo Sr., adding that his son has begun to take some breaths on his own.

DiBernardo Sr. said his son has been packed in ice to keep down a fever.

DiBernardo Sr., who is a retired fire chief, also visited injured Firefighter Jeffrey Cool, 37, last week at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx. "He was talking and smiling happily," he said.

Unfortunately, Cool had a setback this weekend and had to go back on a respirator. "It's a roller coaster," said Eileen Bellew. "We can't forget the hard road ahead, for them and their families."

Originally published on February 8, 2005