While I was born in Brazil I have no real connection to it, as we came back to the USA when I was one. I grew up in Forest Hills New York and to be honest it sucked. When my parents were married, I have no memory of them being happy. They hated each other. My father was severely crazy and always thought he had some mysterious disease (though now with what I know about eastern medicine, perhaps he really did) and would spend most of his time holed up in his room. In fact, when my mom took a vacation without him she had to get the neighbors to come over
and take care of us, because he could not or would not.
One of the few times I remember them together was in my father’s room where an argument over her male friends. My father stole her index cards with their names (yeah the old rolodex and index cards) and numbers turned violent. Towards the end he had her in a headlock and she was stabbing him in the arm with her keys. I was locked in the room with them just crying the whole time. I think I was in 3rd or 4th grade then. Until she lifted a weight and was going
to smash him in the head; then I jumped off his bed and pulled the weight out of her hand. I just started hitting and screaming for them to stop. That was one of the many times the cops showed up at our house, both during the marriage and after the separation and divorce.
After the divorce my father was a typical deadbeat dad who never paid a dime, at least as far asI knew.
My mom was an adjunct professor at the time and since they make a little less than your average paperboy, she had to get her teaching license and turn to the public schools for
employment. In that, she was made of steel and managed to support her family by scrimping and scraping. Unfortunately, she was also terrified of the world and not being needed. So she spent as much time as she could turning my sister as well as myself into emotional cripples. Who were scared of the world and dependent on her. That coupled with my growing up poor and Jewish in a predominantly wealthy Christian neighborhood. Made it a rough time for me; my later years were a blur of running away, drugs, trouble, and an attempted suicide or two.
2. What is your title & your favorite part of working for your department?
These days I am self employed, as a Licensed Acupuncturist or LAc. I practice Acupuncture, Tui-Na(Chinese medical massage), Zheng Gu(bone setting), internal medicine as well as herbal medicine, Shonishin(Japanese pediatric acupuncture). Along with other adjunctive techniques from traditional Chinese medicine; my favorite part of what I do is a slightly complex answer.
First and foremost, I love that everyday I get to help people and my family lives better, healthier, medication free lives. Those who are able to pay, also allows me to help those who can’t. I never have to compromise my morality to do my job. I love that there is a deep connection between the medicines; the martial arts and meditation I practice. That one never masters any of these techniques but is always learning. I just travel a little farther down the path that has no end. A friend once said that I reminded him of a Jedi Knight. I could think of no higher compliment.
3. How do you define success?
My definition of success is pretty simple. Being happy, having a happy family, and doing something to make the world a better place.
4. What have you learned over your lifetime that you'd like to share with the younger generation?
Without hurting others, go after what you want in life. Believe in yourself and anything is possible. As silly and trite as that sounds it is really true, our beliefs make our reality. Judge nothing until you have the experience to understand it.
5. What is your favorite hobby?
I really wouldn’t say I have a hobby these days. I stopped the ice and rock climbing, because as the sole provider for my family I can’t afford to fall and break something right now. I do a bit of canoeing, hiking, and cross country skiing, but my passion is the martial arts.
6. Who has had the greatest influence on you?
It is hard to say, everyone has even those I didn’t like or respect. Those that stand out are my beautiful wife, my old dog Siva, my amazing daughter as well as my teacher and mentor Peter Yates.
7. Could you please explain why you left FDNY to pursue your current career?
On or around June of 2001. I came into work at Station 15 (Metropolitan Hospital located in
what is referred to as El Barrio or Spanish Harlem). I was supposed to work a double on 12 David
3 and 1 with Dan Limberg (That would be 4pm-8am). Lt. Wolf was on the desk and he told us
that 10 Adam 3 had two new jacks working it and he wanted to split them up. I got the young
white female pre med student on 12 David 3. While Dan, got the new guy on 10 Adam 3.
One of our first jobs was a violent drug addict on One O Six and Lexington Ave. I wasn’t familiar
with this patient but apparently he was a local transient. Who liked to fight with cops, EMS,
and hospital staff. My co-workers know I never asked for backup, unless I was completely
outnumbered. So, I told the cops to 55 (Not needed at this time) and instructed the patient to
come with us. He warned me he was a Kung Fu master. So I responded with, “Okay then just
crane step your way into the ambulance.”
This job seemed like nothing. I figured I would get us down to Metropolitan Hospital, roll a
stretcher to the back then wheel him in. No muss no fuss. We arrive at the Emergency Room
parking bay. Then I went to go get a stretcher. I passed a doctor and a nurse who were just
standing there smoking. At the opposite end of the bay from the ambulance, approximately 100
feet or so away.
I rolled the stretcher to the back, opened the doors, only to see my partner (a tiny white girl
who is a pre-med student) trying to fend the patient off; as he was grabbing and slapping at
her. So I yell, “Hey calm down and come out here.” At that point, the doctor yells at me, “Hey
you calm down now.” I just ignored him, because we were very busy with trying to reason
with this man. But he continued to ignore me. So, I jumped over the stretcher, stepped up into
the rig and grabbed his hands away from my partner. Then I lifted him up to walk towards the
The struggle continued so I put him back down on the bench. Then he spit in my face. The whole
time mind you, I can hear this doctor yelling from across the ambulance bay for me to calm
down. But he never came near the rig to see what was going on. I yelled, “Don’t spit in my face.”
Suddenly Dan is there, apparently his unit had just pulled into the hospital and he heard me yell.
He helped me to restrain the patient then we got him on the stretcher.
As we pass the doctor, Dan asks the physician, “How would you like it if he spat in your face?”
The doctor responded with, “Oh you are a smart guy huh? I show you who is smart guy. I am
going to show you both!”
We get the guy into the ER, to the groans of the staff that recognize the ray of sunshine on our
stretcher. Dan then leaves with his partner to go on another assignment. About 2 minutes later,
Lt. Wolf and the physician came into the Emergency Room and the doc starts pointing at me;
yelling, “That we were punching and kicking the patient in the ER bay.”
Despite his lack of any mark of violence the doctor began to mime us punching and kicking. I
told Lt. Wolf the guy is a liar. The doctor then goes ballistic, yelling again. Lt. Wolf asked me to
write an incident report and that seemed to be it; or so I thought.
Over the next 2 weeks or so I continued working my regularly scheduled tours and never heard
a word about this. Then I was home on my pass days when Dan called, to inform me that he
just got to the station. He told me that he was on restricted duty as was I. Two minutes later he
called me back and told me, we were not restricted we were suspended for 30 days without pay
But there was no monetary worry, as when the union stepped in they took care of our finances
by giving us each $250. In order to cover rent, food, electricity, travel for a month, as well as
living expenses in NYC. That along with my savings, based on our lavish pay scale, nearly cost me
We even received letters after the unofficial restriction, informing us of suspension from BITS
(Bureau of Investigations and Trials). These letters said, due to the grievous nature of your
misconduct (not alleged misconduct) you are suspended for 30 days without pay or benefits;
pending investigation and trial.
So I went rock climbing and when I came back I started the process of applying to Acupuncture
school. I came off of the 30 days, but was still restricted to the station from patient care. You
know paper pushing station bitch on tour 1. While Dan, was the station bitch on tour 3.
About two weeks later I started school, while they continued their investigation. The whole time
the union was promising us the moon and that we would be fully exonerated. I kept pointing
out that all they had to do was view the security tapes from the Emergency Room bay. Then
we would be cleared instantly. Apparently this was too advanced of an investigative technique
for BITS. Instead they chose to believe the doctor, who then had changed his story; to hearing
not seeing the sounds of an assault. In order to collaborate his story with the nurses who just
happened to be his wife. Imagine that a busy night in Spanish Harlem and the Emergency Room
doctor and nurse are so highly educated they were smoking while patients were coming in by
the minute. Furthermore, this doctor had super human hearing. His ears were so good he could
distinguish the gender of the assaulters. As my female partner was never charged; even though
she also in the back of the ambulance with us.
So I quickly realized that staying all night shuffling papers at the station, then all day at school
was going to kill me. I never saw my dog who was my world back then and was lucky to be
just getting fed. So I just started banging out. I kept that up until one fateful day while I was in
school. I heard everybody talking about a plane hitting the Twin Towers, then I heard about
another. I told my teacher I was gone, I called the station and the Lt. on the desk told me to just
come in and forget about the restriction. So I am keeping his name out of this. He stated that
everybody was needed.
I came in, driving on the shoulder of the road with my hazard lights flashing. With all the other
Members of the Service on the road running towards what all the others were running from. I
got to the station and without any equipment they popped us all into a bus. Then sent us down
to the piers which was a staging area. I was there for about 20 minutes, listening to others talk
shit about how it was so exciting it was to sit around and do nothing.
So I said fuck it. I grabbed any of the others who had the testicles to come with me and we
grabbed a few boxes of those cheap orange duckbilled masks. We began walking down to
Ground Zero. Handing out masks to the civilians, while directing them to go to the pier; where
they would be safe from any further falling debris. We never thought to keep any for ourselves.
We got to the site and went in to the old Merrill Lynch building that was the staging area right in
front of the first major collapse. But it was complete anarchy there was no command center, no
one in charge and not much to do. Some people began looting. To this day I still not am capable
of comprehending that.
I went outside and stood at the edge of the building for a bit contemplating what to do next,
before finally saying screw it. Then I headed down to the bucket line to help with the digging.
Because there was nothing medically to do at that point, as I walked away from myself
appointed post. Debris started to rain down from the Millennium Hotel. Suddenly one piece of
re-bar stabbed straight into the concrete. The exact spot where it stabbed in looked very close
to where I had been standing. I walked back up the steps and I could see the imprints of my
boots, in that dust on either side of this piece is where the steel spike protruded from. I don’t
know why I walked away at that moment maybe it had something to do with Guardian Angels,
but if I hadn’t, I would have had this piece of steel sticking straight through me. Like a Popsicle
from an abattoir.
So 10 minutes later, I am still down on the pile about 200 yards from the building. While more
debris begins raining down; as the rain and blustery winds began to pick up again. This time a
piece of steel hit the ground then bounced and came flying right towards me. I quickly move a
bit and yell look out, but it hit some poor firefighter past me and broke his arm.
We all got this guy on a long board and removed him out of there. The rest of the time was a
blur, digging, finding masks, watching doctors fight over the few patients that we found. Until
the EMS doctor told the rest he would have them arrested if they continued to interfere. Then
he sent all the injured people with the ambulance crews to expecting pre chosen hospitals.
I worked the scene for the first 48 or 72 hrs, then went back home. When I was sure no one else
would be found alive, I made love to my girlfriend, hugged my dog tightly but still had no clue
how bad it really was. Until I checked my messages and had a full boat of people, some I hadn’t
heard from in years, calling to see if I was alive.
I called in sick a few more times, than I realized it was time to cut the cord and consider this my
last act as an EMT for FDNY. I then came in and handed in my official resignation to Capt Parra.
Interestingly enough, I recently tried to get my 9/11 medal to give to my daughter and was told
I had none since I had resigned in August of that year. Which means someone took the time and
trouble to go back and change my date of resignation. I have thought of fighting with FDNY over
it but the thought of that fight makes me tired all over.
As an addition to the case; Dan went AWOL after 9/11, to start his own business. Because he
just didn’t want to deal with them anymore. Eventually he was called in to answer the charges
about being AWOL. When he came in, they asked why he did it? His response was because they
never followed up on our original case, not even after I resigned.
Here’s the rub, they didn’t even remember about our original still unofficial case. They didn’t
even know we were on restriction. They hadn’t even realized that I had resigned. So they
make a big deal about calling the state investigators, to find out why they hadn’t done their
investigation. The state responded we wait on your investigation, than we follow up with our
own. You know this! So they offered Dan to accept the 30 day loss of pay during the suspension,
with no apology or vindication what so ever. He tells them to shove it and rightfully so. Later I
met with a state investigator the investigator interviewed me and let me in on some of the inner
story. The nurse that was hanging out smoking cigarettes with the doctor was his wife. She had
had problems involving EMS in the past. Her story also did not match his which I have already
mentioned. And the state does not take a witness as credible who only hears things; without
seeing anything to substantiate it.
In addition the victim had no evidence of an assault, which again I had already mentioned. Not
even a complaint about us which would have been filed with CCU (Civilian Complaint Unit).
He was so peaceful and docile that he needed to be chemically sedated then restrained, after
attacking the staff. Which everyone knew would happen. That was the last I ever heard about
this case. I continued to work under the same EMT certification for Cabrini Hospital under
the same 911 system; while in school for an additional 4 years. I assume the matter has been
8. What will be your legacy? Is the world better because of you/your work/your influence?
That is really for others to decide, I just do my best to do the right thing. For no other reason than it’s the right thing to do, on a day to day basis.
9. What's the funniest work story/ event you remember?
Well there have been so many, but for some reason this one always sticks with me. My partner and I had gotten a little tired of the ghetto that evening. So, we were out of our area somewhere near Lenox Hill Hospital. We got flagged down by a guy. When we asked him what’s going on, he points to an obviously homeless man and tells us this guy grabbed him saying he couldn’t breathe.
So I take a look at the guy and right off the bat, he shows no signs of respiratory distress. So I figure we don’t have an immediate issue with him, I thank the other guy than begin to get the patient into the ambulance. I ask his name and he tells me his name is Wendel. Then I ask him what’s going on? In a clear non-distressed voice, he tells me he can’t breathe because God took his lungs.
So I check his vital signs, lung sounds etc all good. I ask him if he has had an operation or surgery in the past. Figuring that this may be the source of the, “God took my lungs” comment, no dice! But he is definitely showing signs of being a bit of an Emotionally Disturbed Person. So my partner and I figure we will just roll up the block to the hospital and let the ER staff sort out his fears. But then Wendel begins a conversation with me
that goes like this:
Wendel, “Hey man is this the twilight zone?”
Me, “Not that I am aware of, why Wendel do you think that this is the twilight zone?”
Wendel, “Yeah it is!!”
Wendel, “Did you know that Rod Serling is God?”
Me, “No, I didn’t know that.”
Wendel, “Yeah…That FUCKING SON OF A BITCH stole my lungs!”
10. Is there anything I haven't asked about that you would care to comment on?
I would just like to remind the people out there, that for many the health impact of 9/11 is still happening. About 2 years ago one of my first partners, Scott Houston died of lung complications associated with working at ground zero. I would like his sacrifice to be known and remembered. Many of us are still paying the ultimate price. The public needs to know this.
11. What is your favorite dinner & what do you drink with it?
That’s a hard one, since moving up to North Conway NH, which has very limited choices in food. My wife and I have become pretty good cooks, so my favorite meal tends to be whatever I am in the mood to whip up. As for drinks when it comes to alcohol, decent Scotch or Tequila. In my income bracket that usually is Johnny Walker black or green and Patron silver.