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More than 70 FDNY members honored at Medal Day

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On an unusually warm afternoon in mid-February 2023, FDNY Lieutenant Mark Russo was at the scene of a raging house fire in Staten Island’s Arden Hill neighborhood when a mayday call came over the radio: A firefighter was trapped inside the burning three-story home, his exit blocked by the spreading flames. 

One firefighter had already been forced to bail out of the home’s second story. Hearing the distress call, Russo, detailed to Squad 8, sprang into action. He stormed into the residence, scrambled over burning furniture and climbed up a narrow staircase to the second floor and, with the help of another firefighter, Justin McGhie, eventually located his trapped colleague and brought him to safety. 

For his deeds that day, Russo was honored at the FDNY's annual Medal Day ceremony on Wednesday as the recipient of the Peter J. Ganci Medal, the department's highest recognition for valor. Russo, a Staten Island resident and a 17-year firefighter, was among more than 70 firefighters, EMTs and paramedics who had awards bestowed on them at the City Hall ceremony, the 155th in the FDNY's history.

"Medal Day stands as a testament to our department's triumphs,” FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said at the ceremony. “To those moments of unparalleled bravery when our members risk everything to safeguard the lives of their fellow New Yorkers and of one another."

The department introduced a new award at the ceremony, named after Battalion Chief Thomas J. Neary who was the first firefighter to be awarded the Ganci Medal on two occasions for two different acts of bravery. The first Thomas J. Neary Medal was awarded to Captain Jonathan Shields on Wednesday for saving the lives of three people in a fire on New Year’s Eve last year.

EMTs Emmanuel Titus and Shawn Griffin were given the highest award for members of EMS, the Christopher J. Prescott Medal, for a call they responded to of a person contemplating jumping from the Kosciuszko Bridge. Titus and Griffin convinced the individual to step away from the ledge and to receive their care.

EMTs Emmanuel Titus and Shawn Griffin received the Christopher J. Prescott Medal. Photo: FDNY
EMTs Emmanuel Titus and Shawn Griffin received the Christopher J. Prescott Medal. Photo: FDNY

Both said receiving the award was an unexpected honor. 

“It's not something that you wake up and expect or want,” Titus said afterward. “It’s just something that we’re committed to doing and we’re going to keep committing to doing our job every day no matter what.”

Last year’s Medal Day ceremony was held at Louis Armstrong Stadium in Queens and ended just before Canadian wildfire smoke engulfed the city.

FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens said that Medal Day is a celebration of the courage and sacrifice FDNY members exemplify when they help people on what could be the worst day of their lives.

“Today, we honor those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, approaching perilous, unpredictable situations with bravery and skill,” he said at the ceremony. “The firefighters and EMTs of the FDNY do not shy away from danger. They confront it head-on, fully aware of the risks, but driven by a commitment to protect and serve.”

dfreeman@thechiefleader.com

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Comments

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  • DOTHERIGHTTHING

    Congrats to all medal winners.

    Why did they change the name of the Gordon Bennett medal?

    5 days ago Report this

  • Richard Khavkine

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/08/nyregion/nyc-fire-department-bennett-medal.html

    4 minutes ago Report this