Saturday, September 10, 2011

9-10-11 Lt. Dennis Mojica

The 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb at Red Rocks is tomorrow. Last year I picked up my registration packet that morning and inside was my firefighter, Ray Meisenheimer. I didn't know anything about Ray that morning as I climbed but I looked him up later that day. He was two months from retirement at the age of 46.

This year, Jessie and Bob are making the climb with me. We were able to get over to pick up the registration packets today instead of waiting until tomorrow morning. Since they have reached their goal of 2001 registrants, they've even run out of t-shirts. On the table were the 343. They print pictures of each of the firefighters with his face and name. Instead of just pulling out the one in your packet, they let you pick your man. They had two sets out on the table this morning. It struck me how many faces, how many names, were piled up there together, every one representing a life, a story, a family. How do you choose?

My eyes fell on Dennis and that big sweet smile of his and I knew I'd be walking with him tomorrow.


Dennis was 50 and had been with the NYFD for almost 30 years. That morning, as the Lt. in charge, he'd just finished his overnight shift and was back at the house when the call came in. He and his crew of 5 as well as the shift of 6 men about to start their shift for Rescue 1 of NY all hopped on the fire truck and raced to Tower 1. None of them came home. They were all in Tower 1 when it collapsed, climbing to find people to help. CBS did a short piece about them here. 

He'd asked his fiance to marry him the Christmas before, which she recounts in the Times bio here.

This was the face that caught my eye on the table this morning, in his Lieutenant's hat. It's the one I will wear tomorrow.


Seven years earlier artist Jesse Gardner had painted Dennis' portrait and recalls "he was as humorous as he was brave, and could not smiling as I worked with him on the portrait."


At his funeral, Jesse and his friend David carried the picture to the steps of St. Patrick's to honor Dennis.


LIFE Magazine ran these pictures from his funeral.




 


Edited to add: We just discovered that the man Bob chose, rather randomly, William Henry, known as Buddy to everyone, was on Dennis' crew, one of his five men, who died with him.

Here is Part 1 of the Company of Heroes about these men.

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