A retired New York Fire Department firefighter led a workout on Friday, Sept. 10 in memory of a friend and fellow firefighter who died in the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago.
On Friday morning, retired New York Fire Department Capt. James D’Avolio and about two dozen others climbed up a stairway at the Forsyth County Family YMCA 110 times, each representing a floor of the World Trade Center Towers that fell on Sept. 11, 2001.
“The value to me to be involved in something like this is: these guys went to work that day, and the majority of them did not have time to call their loved ones and say, ‘I love you, goodbye,’” D’Avolio said. “They didn’t have time to let people know that they were going to what was truly harm’s way, and for me, it gives me a chance to remember their legacy.”
D’Avolio said as memorials were planned around the country to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack, Friday’s workout was meant as a tribute to one person: Kenneth Marino, an FDNY firefighter who lost his life on 9/11.
He remembered Marino as a “fireman’s fireman because he was a lot of fun to work with and he was a fantastic fireman on the fire floor.”
“Kenny was the guy that was literally the best of the best,” D’Avolio said. “I’m honored to call him my friend. I’m thankful to have known him, his wife and his two kids. I’m just thankful that I’m able to participate in the workout.”
At the time of the attacks, D’Avolio said he was working with the FDNY out of a firehouse in Maspeth, Queens, which he said “was the only firehouse in New York City that had two special operations companies, which is one of the reasons why we lost 19 guys on 9/11 from the firehouse.”
D’Avolio was off-duty at the time of the attack but said he was able to make it to Ground Zero before the North Tower of the World Trade Center fell, which occurred less than two hours after the first crash.
“I was in Manhattan until Thursday night searching, rescuing, recovering,” he said. “I left sometime around Thursday night, went back to my firehouse to take a shower, went back to the Trade Center, left there again on Saturday sometime around midnight and went home for the first time. I was only home four times in the first 30 days.
“It was a tough time. It was a very, very difficult time.”
Among those who D’Avolio helped rescue was Genelle Guzman, who on Sept. 12 was the last survivor found in the rubble.
D’Avolio said participating in memorials like the workout was “allows me to be a part of something they can no longer be a part of.”
“In my mind, and in the hopes that most people will see, it allows their legacy to live on and their memories to live on,” he said. “That’s the reason why I participate in the events I participate in.”
While he was climbing in memory of Marino and his sacrifice, he said he appreciated those who joined him celebrating a stranger.
“To me, it’s so heartfelt that there are people who don’t know him, people who are just willing to spend time and do something that is for a cause that is bigger than themselves that’s impacting on something that really, in my opinion, should be remembered,” D’Avolio said.