Firehouse's 'angel' remembers its fallen

From left, Carol Murphy, fire Capt. Vincent Ungaro, From left, Carol Murphy, fire Capt. Vincent Ungaro, Joanne Bascetta and retired fire Capt. Denis Murphy at FDNY's Squad 288 and Haz Mat Co. 1 in Maspeth, Queens. (Sept. 11, 2011) Photo Credit: Emily Ngo

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Joanne Bascetta was drawn to FDNY's Squad 288 and Haz Mat Co. 1 in Maspeth, Queens, which suffered the greatest loss of any firehouse on 9/11 with 19 men killed. She vaguely knew one of the fallen, Joseph Hunter, whose brother was her father's social worker -- and that was connection enough for her.

Bascetta, 49, who worked in insurance, began bringing meals, flowers and candles to the firefighters, visiting so often that she came to be known as their "angel," said Capt. Vincent Ungaro, a lieutenant in Maspeth at the time.

"A lot of things go on behind the scenes that people don't get recognized for -- that was Joanne," said Ungaro, 55, of Holbrook, now with Engine 235 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

The pair, who have remained friends in the decade since 9/11, were among the firefighters, their families and first-responders attending a memorial service Sunday in Maspeth.

"They miss their friends. That will never, ever end," said Bascetta, of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

It seems her friendship with Ungaro will also endure, especially important since he was diagnosed in January with leukemia, an illness he links to time he spent at Ground Zero after the attacks.

Sept. 11, 2001 and the cleanup effort "seem like yesterday," he said. "Nine months, day in and day out. We gave up a lot, but we'd do it again."

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