Wednesday, July 2, 2008

At the Firemen's Garden

At 364 E. 8th St., just east of Avenue C on the south side, you'll find the Firemen's Garden. Of all the gardens in the neighborhood, this one is particularly special. There's a sign on the fence that explains the garden is a tribute to all the New York City firefighters who have died in the line of duty. In particular, the sign reads, the site pays homage to the memory of Martin R. Celic, a young member of Ladder Company 18.

There's a reason I'm writing about this today. On July 2, 1977, at 3:10 p.m., a four-alarm fire broke out on the fifth floor of an abandoned six-floor tenement building that stood at 364 E. 8th St. After Celic and his fellow firefighters entered the burning building, the teenager who started the blaze reportedly went back in and set another fire, trapping the men inside.

According to news accounts at the time, Celic and seven other firefighters were injured trying to escape. A fire department cherry picker was raised to rescue the men. They needed to jump from the fire escape on the fifth floor onto the bucket. Celic fell 70 feet to the street. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he died on July 10. He was 25. He was set to be married that October.

The sign on the garden talks more about Celic, and his "love of practical jokes, his joyous irreverence, and his friendliness." You can read more about how the garden came to be here.

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