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Former FDNY firefighter Ferrugia, 'twice cited for bravery,' memorialized

Valentina Ferrugia, 8, of Floral Park, honors her

Valentina Ferrugia, 8, of Floral Park, honors her uncle, Firefighter Joseph A. Ferrugia, at the 114th annual FDNY Memorial Service in Manhattan on Wednesday. Credit: Danielle Silverman

FDNY firefighter Joseph A. Ferrugia of Massapequa endured through 9/11. He didn’t survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Ferrugia, the FDNY’s first active-duty firefighter to die from the virus, was among 10 firefighters, medics and lieutenants memorialized on Wednesday at the Firemen's Memorial overlooking Manhattan’s Riverside Park.

"Twice cited for bravery, a first responder on 9/11," Mayor Bill de Blasio said before the Ferrugias and the nine other families. "And he lived through that horror, and he fought through every challenge, and he saved lives, but then he was taken from us by this horrible disease."

Sixteen FDNY personnel have died from the virus since the pandemic’s start, according to Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro. After the ceremony, Nigro told reporters he backed a departmentwide vaccination mandate. There's currently an option, for those unvaccinated, to be tested weekly for the virus.

"We’ve lost 16 members of this department. We have two families here today in tears losing their family member to COVID, and I think it’s time — people have had a long time to think about this — for our members to be mandated," Nigro said. "They’re out there treating the public. Their families deserve it, they deserve it, and the public deserves it."

The percentage of vaccinated FDNY personnel is "in the 60s," he said. De Blasio ultimately will decide whether to expand the existing mandate, which covers public school employees and certain others, to first responders and beyond. Earlier in the morning, de Blasio said of mandates for the FDNY, NYPD and Correction Department: "That’s what we're talking about over the coming days, and stay tuned for updates."

At Wednesday’s ceremony, two of the 10 being memorialized had died of the virus. The 10 died between Oct. 8, 2020, and Sept. 19.

Ferrugia, who died Jan. 31, had been with the FDNY for 31 years and had three kids. The other person to die of the virus was Evelyn Ford, an emergency medical technician.

Thomas C. Akerberg, an EMT, is the other Long Islander who was memorialized at the ceremony, according to Jim Long, an FDNY spokesman. Akerberg died Feb. 2 of a medical episode, Long said. In addition to COVID-19, causes included car crashes and medical condition; two died while on vacation, according to Long. None of the deaths were in the line of duty.

The Firemen's Memorial, atop a hillside at 100th Street facing the Hudson River, features a grand staircase, a fountain basin, and the monument depicting a bas-relief of horses drawing an engine to a fire.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated Ferrugia's marital status.

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