A Hero We Will Never Forget
The neglectful blogger apologizes to you immensely. Life is still a crazy and busy place. I hope to fill you in soon. In the meantime, Uncle Giant needs lots of good vibes, prayers and anything else you’ve got.
As the five year anniversary to 9-11 approaches, I feel this is important to share. I know a lot of times we see links and don’t click because we have no time or we think they aren’t very important, this link is different. It will show you the final resting place for all of those whose bodies were not recovered at Ground Zero.
Are you sick of hearing and reading about 9-11? I am too. And so are the families who run this organization. But it’s time this dirty little secret has come to light. Did you know that the city cleared Ground Zero by placing the debris in a garbage dump? Did you know that along with that debris there were thousands of victims’ bone and tissue fragments? I didn’t either.
My friend Rose lost her son Bobby. He was in the South Tower trying to help the people get out before the collapse. Bobby’s story is in a book. I was honored to write it for Rose and her family.
A Hero We Will Never Forget
Robert J. Foti
1959 – 2001
(Worth Remembering Publishing, 2006©)
The world watched in horror as firefighters searched for their brothers and any signs of life. New York City firefighter, Joseph Foti stood in shock, atop a pile of rubble, knowing his brother was trapped somewhere inside. September 11, 2001, at the site of the World Trade Center, the unthinkable happened. America was attacked. Among the missing was Robert Foti of Ladder 7.
Bobby was Joseph’s first best friend, his brother in work and in life. When Joseph arrived at the site, he could see his brother’s ladder truck parked on the street corner. His worst fear was realized.
Ash, smoke, debris, and cries of utter despair rang out. It was a day that will be forever etched in the history of the United States. That fateful day, three hundred and forty three heroes of the New York Fire Department died. In all, nearly three thousand people lost their lives.
Everyone who knew Bobby knew his silly little grin, his movie star good looks, his contagious laughter and amazing sense of humor. But they also knew of his love of the job. As soon as he was old enough to put the words together, he said he wanted to be a firefighter and a rescuer. Even at the age of fourteen, Bobby saved another child from drowning in a lake.
There were countless times he saved people’s lives over the years. It was one of the things he simply loved to do. He never showed any fear and always put others’ needs and safety ahead of his own. He was a one-of-a-kind man who gave of himself with all of his heart. Our lives aren't often blessed with people like him. We cherish our memories and hope we can carry on the way we know he would want us to.
His mother, Rose has made an effort to keep Bobby’s memory alive. She travels all over to share her faith and his memory. She has attended hundreds of memorial events from New York to Lebanon.
He wasn’t only a true American hero, he was also a wonderful son, brother, husband, and father who lived life to the fullest. He was exuberant and spontaneous, and squeezed a lifetime into his 42 years. From the moment each of his children was conceived, they were his next breath. He adored them in the most nurturing and loving ways. Alycia, Robert and James gave him their love in return. They were the center of each other’s universe.
Bobby was always a kid at heart. He was the kind of man who loved children and the sound of their laughter. If he was in the park, and the ice cream man came, Bobby would be the first to the truck, and then he would buy ice cream for every kid there. Vibrant, was just the kind of guy he was.
The pain of losing him is beyond measure, yet he was such a strong personality, that, in a sense, he has managed to remain nearby. We look at death as something that is final, but it isn't always like that. Rose feels her son is with her often. She watches for signs along the way and sees that God is kind and merciful.
The day he “went home,” she began to see those signs. Rose’s and Joseph’s homes are near what is now known as, Ground Zero. As Joseph was heading out the door, Rose hugged him, and said, “I put a legion of angels around you and your brother. Come home safe.” He rode to the World Trade Center on his bicycle, wearing a tee-shirt and shorts. He set his bike down. As the South Tower collapsed, he found shelter underneath a bench by the now famous statue called “Double Check.” Little did he know then that his brother was in the South Tower. Joseph managed to dig himself out of the debris, without so much as a scratch on his body. He ran to the nearby firehouse, put on bunker gear and, finding no other equipment, took a commemorative axe off the wall of the station. When he arrived back at the site, he laid the axe on the bumper of an ambulance, but when he reached for it later, it was gone. He came home physically unscathed, and told his mother the story. He added, “Your angels really worked overtime for me.” But his brother, Bobby, never came home.
Three weeks later Bobby’s brother, Frank, came to New York. As a family, they went to Ground Zero to sense the reality of what had happened. Rose walked over to where the South Tower previously stood, and asked one of the workers if he could give her a little piece of metal, anything. The man dug through what had once been a one hundred and ten story skyscraper. He came back and handed her a large piece of metal that looked and felt exactly like an axe. Very clearly, she heard Bobby’s voice, “Mom, I saw brother take the axe. I saw brother lose the axe. I’m giving you back the axe because I want you to know I see everything that’s going on.”
It was a moment that would change his mother’s life. Rose could barely catch her breath. Three months later, she was called to her son Robert’s firehouse because they had something they needed to show her. Photographer Bolivar Arellano had taken a photograph which appeared in the New York Post. This photo showed Robert’s whole company crossing the Westside Highway. Mr. Arellano never took pictures of people’s backs, but he shot only this one frame before moving on, and this shot showed the men only from their backs. It took time to identify the firefighters, but once they did, one of the men was identified as Robert Foti. He was the one bending down to pick up his axe.
For Rose, these daily signs are real and a tight circle woven by God. For now, Bobby’s family battles New York City officials in court for the proper burial of his remains, which were mixed within the wreckage and bulldozed into a garbage dump on Staten Island, ironically called the Fresh Kills Landfill. He is among over 1,500 people whose ashen remains, bone and tissue fragments and personal effects have not been retrieved. It has been a long legal battle, but one the Foti family must face in an effort to seek solace. They are not alone in their quest. An advocacy group, WTC Families for Proper Burial Inc., was formed by the family and friends of victims. They hope that through their efforts, Bobby and the others whose bodies were not recovered or identified, will be given a proper resting place. Active in this organization, Rose is convinced her mission is to see that this effort is carried through in her son’s honor, as well as in honor of the other victims and their families.
She said, “When the kids were little, we had a pregnant dog named Susie. I was at work. When she had her first puppy it was stillborn. So my husband took it away. Susie continued to have puppies throughout the day. When they were all cleaned off and settled, she started looking for her first puppy, the one that my husband had taken away. He’d gotten rid of it, but the dog needed to account for her puppy. She went nuts looking all day long, in the closets, and under the beds. For months she was all over the place, searching. She was looking for her puppy that my husband had taken away, and had thrown away. That is how I feel. I’m looking for this puppy that I can’t account for. And this is what they did to me by throwing my Bobby away. How long am I going to look for this puppy? How long am I going to search for this child I can't account for? The feeling is so empty and you can't fill it. I know that he is there at Fresh Kills. It drives me out of my mind that the powers-that-be say we can’t have him. He is part of me, and I didn’t give them permission to throw my child away.”
Heartbroken and distraught, Rose attends memorials and ceremonies to share information about the unacceptable disposal of the remains, and to offer hope to others in similar situations. Throughout this tragedy, Bobby and his memory continue to live on. Recently she traveled to New Orleans and spoke of coping with loss and destruction. In honor of Bobby, she has become an advocate for all who died at the World trade Center, all of whom were heroes, all of whom deserve honor and respect, and not a garbage dump as their final resting place.