DiBernardo's Father: 'He Became The Fireman's Fireman'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s known as “Black Sunday” — a dark day for the FDNY nearly six years ago when six firefighters were trapped in a building engulfed in flames. On Tuesday, one of those firefighters was honored during a special ceremony.

The name of 16-year veteran Lt. Joseph DiBernardo Jr. was added to the FDNY’s Wall of Heroes. His plaque was unveiled during a ceremony at his former station — Rescue Company 3 in the Bronx.

“Bravery, leadership, service — those are the qualities that we remember Lt. DiBernardo with,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the ceremony Tuesday. “For the rest of my life I will probably always remember that frigid, snowbound January Sunday when two fires, one in Brooklyn and one here in the Bronx, took three of New York’s Bravest.”

On Jan. 23 2005, now known as “Black Sunday,” DiBernardo and five other firefighters were searching for people they thought were stuck in a burning four-story building when they became trapped.

DiBernardo fell nearly 40 feet trying to get away from the flames but not before he held a rope for Lt. Jeff Cool to climb down.

“He said ‘you have a wife and kids, you go first,'” said Cool. “Joey placing my life before his own that day — it’s the true meaning of brotherhood. Joey had total disregard for his life that day and placed my life before his own.”

DiBernardo’s father, retired FDNY Chief Joe DiBernardo Sr., spoke at the ceremony on Tuesday.

“Joey D from Rescue 3 became all he ever wanted to be. He became the fireman’s fireman,” he said.

“He was truly an FDNY hero that day. Truly,” Black Sunday survivor Eugene Stolewsky told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang.

The fall left DiBernardo with career ending injuries. Last November, he died of an apparent overdose of the medication used to ease the pain.

Along with a plaque, DiBernardo’s name is engraved on a memorial at FDNY headquarters.

DiBernardo is among four firefighters who died as a result of battling fires on Black Sunday. Two others’ plaques are on the Wall of Heroes.

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