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Forced to Leap 50 ft to Escape Flames, Fallen Heroes Receive Honors 5 Years Later

Forced to Leap 50 ft to Escape Flames, Fallen Heroes Receive Honors 5 Years Later

Firefighter examines a building in the Morris Heights section of The Bronx, where six of their colleagues were forced to leap 50 feet out of fourth floor windows to the courtyard below. They had raced to the top floor of the apartment on E. 178th St. sear

New York Daily News via YellowBrix

January 24, 2010

NEW YORK – Headed to the blaze where they died five years ago Saturday, Firefighter John Bellew drove and Lt. Curtis Meyran sat beside him.

After a dedication Saturday to mark the anniversary of the day they died, known as Black Sunday, Ladder 27 now bears their names just as they sat that day — Bellew’s name on the left windshield, Meyran’s on the right.

“I thought it was such an honor because that’s the last place he sat,” said Bellew’s widow, Eileen, who continues to count on the firefighters who worked with her husband for support.

At St. Joseph’s Church in the Bronx yesterday, several hundred firefighters and their families remembered the fallen heroes of Black Sunday, the deadliest day for the Fire Department since 9/11.

Bellew and Meyran died while trying to escape a fire in an illegally subdivided apartment.

Another firefighter, Richard Sclafani, died the same day at a blaze in Brooklyn.

After the bagpipes sounded, the firefighters’ widows and children each took a turn sprinkling the firetruck with holy water to officially dedicate it. The assembled company saluted.

Then a Mass was held. “It’s rough. It’s hard to believe how the time just goes,” said a teary Jeanette Meyran after mass.

She hugged her daughter, Danine, 11, looking toward her dead husband’s name. “See, everybody loves your daddy. We’re just proud he’s remembered the way he is.”

Brendan Cawley, then a rookie whose brother died at the World Trade Center, survived Black Sunday and still works at the same firefouse five years later.

“Sometimes it feels like five minute ago – sometimes it feels like 25 years,” he said. “You don’t know which is worse – the pain of feeling like it was five minutes ago or the distance of 25 years.”

At times when it feels like the tragedy occurred long ago, Cawley remembers the times he had with his fallen colleagues. He’s stayed in close touch with Bellew’s and Meyran’s families, offering to do what he can.

“I saw it happen to my parents,” he says, referring to his brother’s death. “I was talking with John’s mother last night, sharing some laughs. … It’s what we do. It’s what we’re good at.”