Friday, June 22, 2007

When The Bravest Fall

Earlier this week, in the wake of the fire tragedy in South Carolina, I spoke about how New Yorkers have grown unfortunately accustomed to mourning their bravest.

Last night, Firefighter Daniel Pujdak died while battling a fire in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He was 23 years old. New Yorkers mourn his loss and pay their respects to their fallen hero.

For me, the loss is even the more tragic. Danny and I went to high school together. We were in the same homeroom for four years. Our lockers were right next to each other. We sat in the same row at graduation. We weren't the closest of friends, but we were certainly high school acquaintances; sharing a laugh about how ridiculous a teacher's test was, or about how "hot" a certain freshman girl was, or about how disgusting the food was in the cafeteria that day. I remember putting a picture of my then-girlfriend and myself in my locker, to which he asked "Is that your girlfriend, she's hot." and I proudly acknowledged our relationship. Everyone loved Danny's smile. Another close friend of mine in high school, a female, used to try to make him laugh every time she saw him, just because "his smile makes my day better."

I haven't seen him in over five years. I had always wondered if he had realized his dream of becoming a firefighter. I remember he would always mention that firefighting is what he wanted to do. I remember girls in homeroom pleading with him not to because of the danger.

"It's dangerous, I don't want you to get hurt." I remember one girl, a close friend of his, saying.

His father is a teacher at my high school. He taught me in my junior year. I remember he asked me to do a report on the movie "The Razor's Edge," and we had a joking argument over which version was better, the original with Tyrone Power, or the remake with Bill Murray. His little brother also went to my high school, and hung around by my locker often in his freshman year, always close to his older brother.

My condolences, like the rest of my high school community and the rest of New York City as well, go out to his family, his father, mother, and brothers. We can take some comfort in knowing that "the quiet kid with the nice smile in Cor 414" died a hero to an entire city.

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