From The Mayor's Desk





















New York says, “Thanks!”


After all that walking around Ground Zero, my son Joe was hungry so Joe Huber took us to a hole-in-the-wall deli for a “slice”.  My Joe quickly learned that a “slice of a pie” meant a piece of pizza.  He also decided that New York slices were the best in the world and that there is no place in New York to get bad pizza.  From that point on during our entire trip, all he wanted to eat was a slice.


Joe drove us up Manhattan, through Harlem, and across the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River to Tappan.  Tappan, about 20 miles south of West Point and just north of the New Jersey border, is where Joe, his wife Casey, and their 3 kids live.  We spent Thursday and Friday nights with them and just had a blast!  Casey was every bit as friendly and as nice as Joe.  She instantly made us feel at home and welcome.  Like Joe, it seemed like we had known her forever.  Their daughter Kristen is totally enamored with Anthony, and wants to come visit us so badly she can taste it.  Their twins, Scott and Jim, are quiet and inseparable.  They spend a lot of time dreaming up imaginary super heroes and writing really detailed stories of their exploits.  And then there’s the dog, Lenny, a big mutt, that Kristen torments and just slobbers all over everyone.  Every time I went outside, Lenny would tag along, and then when I would come back in, I would have to wipe his big paws off with a towel so he wouldn’t track up the carpet.


Tappan is very old and historic.  We visited a house that was built in 1700 and that George Washington stayed in during the Benedict Arnold spy affair.  We ate lunch at the tavern where British Major John Andre was imprisoned before he was hung as a spy and sat at the same bar George Washington sat at.  We just had a lot of fun with Joe and Casey.


Saturday Joe had to go into work at the fire station early so he left me his car keys and gave us directions to get to the Bronx.  About 11AM we told Casey and the kids goodbye, loaded up the car, and I drove back down to the George Washington Bridge, across the Hudson to Manhattan Island, and up to the Bronx.  Joe had given me real good directions, and thankfully it was Saturday so traffic was light.  Driving in New York is an experience all of its own, but we made it to Engine 88/Ladder 38 just fine.  Joe introduced us to all the guys as “the Mayor and his family from Kansas”, and the guys all knew what he meant.  The firehouse was huge!  Each side (half for the Ladder, half for the Engine) had its own restaurant-quality kitchen and eating area, sleeping quarters, and pole to slide down.  The Engine side had a basketball court and weight room on the third floor, while the Ladder side had a big-screen TV.  After the tour Joe put his bunker gear on my Joe, who found it to be pretty heavy and couldn’t imagine wearing it while dragging hose up several flights of stairs to fight a fire. 


Maureen Comisky (Joe Spor’s sister) and her family arrived followed shortly after by Colleen Spor, her kids, and Mr. Spor (Joe’s dad).  We had the entire Spor family in the firehouse that afternoon.  Meeting them after a year of correspondence was such an honor.  Joe’s dad and sisters were just as I imagine Joe was: open, friendly, and just down-to-earth people.  His sisters are spitting images of him; I could have picked them out of a crowd. They kept thanking us over and over for everything Anthony had done for Joe’s family.  Mr. Spor was especially grateful.  He seemed very touched by the honor we have bestowed upon his son’s memory and he wasn’t hesitant to tell us how much it meant to him and Colleen.


Colleen was somewhat reserved, and I had expected that.  We have never once spoken to each other by telephone, yet had e-mailed and written letters about personal feelings and deep emotions such as life and death.  Sometimes her e-mails were open and she wrote of what she was going through, and sometimes it seemed as if a wall had just gone up and she couldn’t allow herself to reveal any more.  I understand and respect that.  She is angry that her Joe was killed; not understanding why he had to die when so many who worked much closer to the Towers made it out.  And she’s overwhelmed by just the everyday task of raising 4 kids all by herself.  We talked; it was incredibly rewarding to finally meet her; and I have no doubt that she has the inner strength to make it through this.


The Spor kids are lively, energetic, cute, and very young.  Casey, the oldest daughter, was the most talkative and boisterous.  Young Joe Jr. looks just like his dad and was bashful.  The other two stuck pretty close to mom.  We had brought some small gifts for them and they all tore into them like kids do.  Neat kids, and they’ll also be just fine.


The firemen fixed all of us the best meal we had in New York.  They had gone to an Italian area of the Bronx called Arthur Avenue, bought homemade ravioli and sausage, and fixed it with salad and homemade bread.  My Joe now wants to be a New York fireman just so he can eat that well.  The meal was great; the conversation was better.  Eating such a good meal with the Spor family and the firemen is an experience I’ll never forget.


After the meal, and after a fire run, Joe Huber called everyone together and started talking about all that Anthony had done for the firemen and the Spor family and what our actions had meant to them.  He said it was an honor to have us there and asked us to extend an invitation to anyone from Anthony to come and visit the firehouse.  Then he presented us with a plaque dated September 11, 2002.  It says, partly, “To the residents of Anthony, Kansas in gratitude for the support you gave us during our darkest days, from the men and officers of Engine 88/Ladder 38 and the Spor family”.  He also gave us a similar plaque addressed to the teachers and students of Anthony Elementary and asked us to present them to the City and the School when we got back (one is hanging in the City building and the other is hanging in the school).  Joe must have been tipped off by some of you because he asked me to give just a short speech and really emphasized “short”.  All I could say to them was that it was a tremendous honor to finally meet everyone, that they had been very gracious and kind to prepare such a wonderful reception, and then I presented the firemen with a Chicken Soup for the Soul book written especially for rescue workers that Ms. Carr, Ms. Schmidt, and their school kids had asked me to pass on to them.  I also invited any and all of them to come visit us in Anthony.  I gave Colleen Spor a rag rug that Koa Costley had made for her.  Koa, she really liked it.  Then Colleen handed me a bag with thank you cards that her daughter Casey had made, a couple of Rescue 3 shirts, and a prayer card from Joe’s funeral.  Pam and I cherish the memories of a very special afternoon spent with the firemen of Engine 88/Ladder 38, Colleen Spor and her kids, and Joe Spor’s sisters and dad.


Before we all broke up and went our separate ways, Joe Spor’s dad asked us to stand in front of the ladder truck for a picture.  This picture, of all of us together, is my most precious memento from our trip to New York.


Finally, with hugs all around, we had to say goodbye to Joe Huber and everyone and make our way to our hotel down in Times Square for check-in.  I figured we would catch a cab, but Joe had something more unique planned.  He had a Rescue 3 (Rescue 3 is the company that Joe Spor had been re-assigned to in August and who had lost half of their men on September 11) ambulance parked outside the firehouse and told us to load our bags into it for the trip to the hotel.  So, a fireman named McGowan and I jumped into the cab and Pam and my Joe jumped into the back and away we went for the 20-minute drive down to the hotel.  The bell captain standing outside our brand-new hotel looked at us kind of funny as we pulled up in an ambulance.  His mouth really dropped open when Pam and Joe hopped out of the back with our luggage.  McGowan leaned over to him and said, in his Bronx accent, “You ever seen anybody come to your hotel in an ambulance before?  These are our good friends from Kansas.  You take good care of them.” He said goodbye, hopped back in the ambulance, and drove back to the Bronx.  I’ve since found out from Joe Huber that he got a rescue call right after he got back into the Bronx.  Don’t know what would’ve happened if he had gotten that call sooner.   


We had many other adventures during our remaining two days in Times Square.  We rode the subway to catch the Staten Island ferry, which sailed us past the Statue of Liberty.  We walked more miles than I care to remember but my feet can’t forget.  And wouldn’t you know I couldn’t leave our pigeon problem back in Anthony; a pigeon deposited a gift on my head while we were walking in Central Park.  What a fun, memorable trip!


I shared these very long columns so you might appreciate the depth of connection that has been forged between Anthony and the Spor family and the firemen of Engine 88/Ladder 38.  When we began this initial contact and established the Victim’s Relief Fund, none of us could’ve imagined what impact our actions could have.  Like the ripples from a stone tossed into a pond, the effects of our very simple actions continue to expand.  


Last modified:  September 23, 2010  

Copyright 2002 Anthony 9-11 Memorial Committee

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