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Fallen FDNY firefighters from LI to be honored on memorial wall

Roger Espinal, a member of the FDNY Bureau

Roger Espinal, a member of the FDNY Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, is one of four Long Islanders who has been added to the New York State Fallen Firefighters Memorial Wall at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced. Credit: DHSES

Four FDNY firefighters from Long Island who answered the call on Sept. 11, 2001, and later died as the result of their exposure at Ground Zero, are among the 21 names being added to the New York State Fallen Firefighters Memorial Wall, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has announced.

Fourteen of the 21 firefighter names being added were Brooklyn-based members of the FDNY and officials have announced that while family members will be unable to attend ceremonies due to COVID-19 protocols in place, the families of all 2020 honorees will be invited to attend the 24th Annual Fallen Firefighters Memorial at Empire State Plaza in Albany in 2021.

A memorial tribute video has been created for the families this year, as well.

The four Long Islanders being memorialized among the 21 Line of Duty deaths are: Roger Espinal of Glen Cove; Robert M. Gless of Valley Stream; Michael T. McDonald of Farmingvile; and John S. Moschella of Long Beach.

The honorees this year bring the total of firefighters memorialized to 2,596, the earliest name on the wall dating to 1811.

"Each of these twenty-one brave New Yorkers answered the call and made the ultimate sacrifice in protecting the communities and residents they serve," Cuomo said in a statement, adding: "It is our duty to honor their bravery and legacy in perpetuity. With their names inscribed on this wall, we vow to never forget their heroic actions and pledge to always remember their legacy."

"It's a great honor," Diana McDonald, widow of Michael McDonald, said Monday. "It's a nice recognition of his dedication. To all his years, his 28 years, of being in the department … So many were lost that day, on Sept. 11, and I'm just thankful we had him for all the time after because so many families didn't get that opportunity … Their loss was so sudden. At least we had time."

McDonald, who was 64 when he died of 9/11-related lung cancer on Aug. 11, 2018, spent 28 years with Ladder 128 in Long Island City, Queens. His family told Newsday McDonald was watching TV at his home in Farmingville when the first plane struck on Sept. 11 — and that, after racing to lower Manhattan, he still managed to be at the scene when the second tower fell, later spending "weeks and months" at Ground Zero with the cleanup and recovery efforts.

McDonald was previously memorialized by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2019.

Moschella, who retired as a captain, died Dec. 8, 2018, of cancer related to his rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. He began his career with Engine 257 Ladder 170 in Canarsie, Brooklyn, and later was a lieutenant at Engine 287 in Elmhurst, Queens, before becoming a captain at Engine 26 in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan. His memorial page notes friends knew the 1984 Farmingdale High School grad as "Johnny Mush."

Gless died Oct. 25, 2016, from 9/11-related illness. He was 67. He served with the FDNY for 24 years, at Engine 224 in Brooklyn Heights and Engine 329 in the Roxbury section of Rockaway Park, Queens.

Espinal was a member of the FDNY Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a brain tumor linked to his work at Ground Zero, in August 2018. He died Sept. 14, 2019, at age 42.

The week of Oct. 4-10 is Fire Prevention Week in New York State and Oct. 8 is the state's Firefighter Appreciation Day.

Officials said that in 2019, fire departments statewide responded to more than 1.5 million incidents — more than 4,200 a day or about three every minute.

Fireman's Association of the State of New York president John P. Farrell Jr. said in a statement: "The men and women of New York's fire service are dedicated professionals who do not hesitate to put their own safety on the line. Unfortunately, this commitment to protect their communities sometimes results in them making the ultimate sacrifice."

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