Michael Paul Ragusa
Michael (Mikey) Ragusa had been a plumber for several years before he changed vocation and became part of the New York Fire Department. He'd been a firefighter for a little over 12 months before the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Michael was a well-loved man by many. I have read so much about how he would help anyone that needed his plumbing skills over the years...he would've given the shirt from his own back if it helped someone else. He was always there for those that needed him.
"He did things to make others happy," said his fiancée. "That's how he made himself happy."
That fateful day as his mother watched the towers in flames on tv, she felt secure in the knowledge that none of her children worked there. No other family member had been part of the fire service before, and as such it can be said she was not thinking like a 'fire mum'. I don't think we can ever ever be prepared for the emotional turmoil that rushes through us, when we realise our children are in such grave danger.
His father later said he had tried to retrace Michael's steps from the time he raced from his Brooklyn firehouse, up to the time he arrived at the WTC. He had each minute in time laid out in his mind....he felt that Michael would have been on the 30th or 40th floor of the tower when it collapsed. How he felt knowing that 70 floors of concrete and steel had come down on his son I can't even begin to imagine.
His sister said he was single-minded. "If we all lined up outside the World Trade Center and yelled, `Mikey stop!,' he still would have ran in."
When word of his disappearance spread through his neighborhood in Brooklyn, dozens of people camped out on his parents' lawn, on their patio furniture and on their living room floor. Strangers who did not know his name came by with fruit baskets to tell of how he helped fix their fences or change their tyres.
The hand of friendship that he offered to others, and his overall love of being 'there' for anyone was made even more apparent on the day he was finally laid to rest....almost two years after the tragedy. His parents had waited for something, anything, to come out of the rubble that was identified as their son. A bone fragment, body tissue, something with DNA possibilities. How could they bury an empty coffin? They HAD to have something.
By coincidence and a passing remark made by a trusted spokesperson of the medical examiner's office, the Ragusas' were made aware that some firefighters had given blood to become potential bone marrow donors.
Michael had volunteered to be a marrow donor.
"On the way home, we were laughing and crying. We were hysterical. We were happy, if you can call it happy," Dee Ragusa recalls. "We had something. Now we had something."
And that's what they buried. Approximately two teaspoons of their beloved son's blood in a glass vial. Two years later, under a clear late-summer sky, flanked by two thousand firefighters frozen in white-gloved salute...nine men in dress blue uniforms slowly pulled a wooden casket from a fire truck and carried the box containing what remained of their final lost comrade into St. Bernard Roman Catholic Church.
Michael Paul Ragusa was born to Vincent and Dee on July 30 1972.
29 years later he gave his life to the people of New York City by doing his best to help save the lives of those occupying the World Trade Centre. He was the last of the 343 firefighters killed in the aftermath of the WTC attack to be officially memorialised.
The Ragusas live in the Bergen Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, an isolated waterfront enclave that did not have paved streets until the 1960s. This is where Mikey used to play in the empty lots, get dirty, get into trouble. Now their street is named after him.
My heart goes out to the Ragusa family and Michael's friends on this 5th anniversary of September 11. You are truly blessed to have had 29 years with such a wonderful and giving man. From the research I've done and the news articles I've read, it is very obvious to me where his strength and caring nature comes from. Good people are surrounded by and supported by more good people.
I am honoured to pay tribute to this courageous young man today. My only regret is that I never knew him personally myself.
Please visit this page for links to more 9/11 tributes. Thank you.
Edit: The above link has now been changed. The original site of 2996 is experiencing errors due to high traffic volume and as such the list of participants and their honourees has been mirrored on a new link.