High praise for visiting NYC firefighter
KEEPSAKE Visiting New York City firefighter Vincent Molinini signs an autograph for Perrin Burchfield during a reception Saturday at Meridian's Central Fire Station. The reception was the public's chance to meet Molinini, a 23-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York who was among rescuers at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie/staff writer
March 3, 2002
Tucker Clark, a 5-year-old kindergarten student at Lamar School, got to meet one of his heroes Saturday.
His mother, Tammy, held an issue of the school's newspaper as she and her son eagerly awaited the arrival of New York City firefighter Vincent Molinini for a public reception at Meridian's Central Fire Station. The newspaper, brought for Molinini to sign, carried a picture of Tucker's class that was sent to New York firefighters with letters of appreciation from the children following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Asked what he wanted to say to Molinini, Tucker said, "You're a good fireman."
Molinini received autograph requests, hugs, praises and thanks from area residents at the reception. He is a firefighter in the Fire Department of New York's 23rd Engine Company, which responded to the Sept. 11 attacks. His company lost six firefighters during the World Trade Center rescue effort.
Molinini and his wife, Maria, visited Meridian this weekend through an effort organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Many cities offered to host New York City firefighters to show their appreciation, and firefighters' destinations were determined by a drawing.
Locally, the Molininis were hosted to receptions, tours and other activities by the city of Meridian and the Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau.
A shy person by nature, Molinini said his visit has been overwhelming because of the outpouring of support.
His comments resonated with Frankie Crawford, who served with the Meridian Fire Department for 26 years before retiring due to an injury received battling a house fire. He was at the reception with his grandson, Cameron Moody. Molinini signed a copy of the book, "One Nation" published by LIFE, as a tribute to Sept. 11 heroes, for Cameron.
Billie East was at the reception with her son, Jeff, an attorney who lives in Atlanta. She said she came because she feels close to New Yorkers, having visited the city a month after the catastrophe.
In that connection, Jeff's mother, known as "Miss Billie," was herself named this week as one of the area's "unsung heroes" in the Profile 2002 edition of The Meridian Star.
Mayor John Robert Smith issued a proclamation at the reception, designating March 1-3 as Vincent Molinini Days in Meridian. Molinini presented Smith and Meridian Fire Chief Bunky Partridge with FDNY caps, T-shirts and commendations that listed the six firefighters from Molinini's company who died in the rescue efforts.
The visit was Meridian's chance to say as Tucker Clark put it "You're a good fireman."