SUFFOLK COUNTY - From as far as Quebec, down to Delaware and all the way to Texas, hundreds of firefighters are spending the weekend at the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank learning lifesaving skills thanks to the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation in honor of hero firefighter Joey DiBernardo.
Joey selflessly sacrificed his life to save now-retired FDNY firefighter Jeff Cool by using the only rope Cool had as an anchor to allow him to escape the flames. Cool wears a piece of it as a bracelet today.
"He said you have a wife and kids - you go first," Cool said. "The fire department wasn’t just a job to Joey, it was his life. His legacy is living across America because he’s saving lives."
January 23, 2005, became known as Black Sunday. It was the darkest day in FDNY history post 9/11 after multiple members were killed on separate calls.
Joey’s dad, a retired deputy chief turned tragedy into triumph. He founded the nonprofit to offer training and grants for safety equipment free of charge to firefighters.
Over the past ten years, the foundation has given out approximately 1,600 bailout systems to 97 departments across 25 states. It cost roughly $1.2 million in grants. Everyone involved in the seminar agrees you can’t put a price tag on safety.
"They’re going to leave with advanced skills of how to force their way into burning structures of all shapes, sizes, and types," said instructor Rex Morris who is the Interim Chief of the City of Stamford Fire Department.
As for Joey, his dad says while he may be gone, he will never be forgotten.