Long Beach walk honors fallen 9/11 firefighter
Standing at the finish line of a walk/run dedicated to the memory of her firefighter son, Pat Kiefer Saturday called the first responders to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, "the first soldiers in the war on terrorism."
"We must keep their memory and remember the sacrifices Michael and the others made on 9/11," Kiefer, 57, of Franklin Square, said while surrounded by friends and family on the Long Beach boardwalk at the eighth annual FDNY Michael Kiefer Walk/Run.
Her son, 25, was assigned to Engine Company 280/Ladder Company 132 in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn for nine months before he died after responding to the terrorist attacks on the trade center.
The Kiefer family holds fundraisers twice a year in his memory - the beach walk and a doo-wop dance in October.
"Michael loved the oldies. It's another way to remember," said his father, Bud Kiefer, 60. The money raised goes to various charities.
Proceeds from Saturday's event, which drew about 250 people, will be donated to Hope for the Warriors and the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation, both nonprofit organizations.
Hope for the Warriors was founded in North Carolina by three Marine Corps wives in 2006, said the charity's event coordinator, Christine Durkin, 34, of Baldwin. The organization aims to bring awareness to the effects of traumatic brain injuries on many wounded soldiers and to aid veterans' families.
Durkin described working with the Kiefer family as a natural fit.
"Whether risking life overseas or here at home, these men and women need to be acknowledged and appreciated for the sacrifices they make," she said.
Dominick Labianca, 34, of Franklin Square, who grew up with Michael Kiefer and described himself as Kiefer's "partner in crime," said the memorials for his friend were not sad events.
"Today is not a day to mourn but to celebrate," said Labianca, a New York City Police officer assigned to the 107th Precinct in Fresh Meadows. "A day to remember and do the things Michael did."
Before Kiefer joined the fire department, he was a Long Beach lifeguard. His daily workout, Labianca recalled, included a run along the very boardwalk where people Saturday walked to honor him.
"Michael dedicated his life to helping people. Through this event he continues to do so," Pat Kiefer said.