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Mom and dad keep fallen firefighter son’s legacy alive

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SUFFOLK COUNTY, Long Island (PIX11) — Life, as they knew it, turned upside down for Joe and Barbara DiBernardo of Stony Brook, Long Island on January 23, 2005.

That’s when they received the news that their only son, Joey, an FDNY firefighter with Rescue 3 in the Bronx, had been critically injured in a jump from a fourth floor window, trying to escape a raging inferno. A total of six firefighters were forced to evacuate by window because the fire escapes were blocked by illegal apartment partitions.

Two firefighters, John Bellew and Curtis Meyran, were killed on impact.


Joey D’s parents, Joe and Barbara DiBernardo, have kept his memory alive through his foundation.

Joey D, as he was fondly known, broke every bone in his body below his pelvis in the jump. His feet were smashed, and he spent 18 days in a coma. And even though he went through rehab and then went home, his physical and emotional wounds claimed his life nearly seven years later, on November 22, 2011.

RELATED: Tears In The Firehouse: ‘Black Sunday’ hero gets final recognition

Joey DiBernardo was celebrated in life for heroically wrapping a rope around his arm so his Rescue 3 partner, Jeff Cool, a father of two boys, could potentially lessen his fall.

Joseph P. DiBernardo and his son — fondly known as Joey D. The father’s year-long quest to honor his late son was successful.

This past weekend, Jeff Cool spoke at the 2nd Annual Joey DiBernardo Memorial Foundation seminar at the Hyatt Regency on Long Island. The foundation remembers Joey D’s commitment to teaching, training, and safety.

The foundation presented a check for more than $13,000 to the newly-formed Mount Hope, New York Fire Department. The volunteer department now has between fifty and sixty members, but very little money for training.


“Black Sunday” survivor Jeff Cool (center) with the FDNY Emerald Society band.

Joey D’s father, retired Deputy Chief Joseph DiBernardo, noted his son’s foundation is providing the funding for Mount Hope’s personal “life safety” rope systems, because that’s part of the group’s goals.

“This keeps Joey’s legacy alive…to train and protect and save the lives of firefighters,” retired Chief DiBernardo said.

Joey D’s story has gained international attention. But his parents have gained particular comfort from their granddaughter, Gabriella, who shrieks with delight and love when she sees video of her late uncle, who was her godfather. Gabriella’s mother is Joey’s younger sister, Carolyn.

The family has made exceptional use of social media sites like Facebook to spread the word about Joey DiBernardo’s foundation. They are already planning next year’s dinner and seminar, in late May 2015.

For more information on Joey D’s legacy, go to joeydfoundation.org.

Special thanks to Dennis Whitham, Editor of the Fire News newspaper, for providing photos from the 2014 seminar.