Make My Spirit Live On

By Anthony Liverano

Firefighter Michael Cammarata

Following the tragic days after September 11, 2001, lists of the missing were slowly compiled. The bureaucracy remained standing and would require the submission of the basic legal documents that would ensure complete files were kept on each missing person. It would be a haunting task for the surviving family members.

In Staten Island, Linda Cammarata searched through her son Michael’s drawers for his birth certificate and other things. During her search she found something that would give ultimate meaning to the rest of the lives of each member of the Cammarata family.

She slowly pulled out a folded piece of loose-leaf paper. When she unfolded it, it read: “If anything ever happens to me…” Mrs. Cammarata stopped reading and called her other son, Joseph. What he read on the paper was heart-felt, a list of four requests to be carried out in the event Michael himself was unable to.

The first was to “take care of Jenna,” Michael’s girlfriend of seven years. They started dating when they were 14. At 22, the youngest firefighter to die on September 11, Michael Cammarata, was last seen entering the Marriott Hotel in World Trade Center Tower 3, according to witness reports.

His second request: “Don’t mourn, as this is the career I chose.” In his book, Face of Courage: Rise from the Rubble, published earlier this year, Joseph Cammarata recounted how his family questioned what could make a healthy, young man at the start of a bright, new career, write something like this. What could have happened that would provoke it?

Michael’s List

His third request, and the one that his family members would try ever so hard to satisfy: “Make my spirit live on.” It would be this request that Michael’s mother and brother would work passionately to fulfill.

Michael’s final request was simple and comforting: “Remember I love you all and will be waiting for you upstairs.”

After reading the list, Joseph said he declared, “I will be the one forever, and I do mean until I perish one day, who will relentless carry out this list.” And he has stayed true to his word.

Nearly one year after the attacks, in September 2002, the street that Joseph and Michael grew up on was renamed Firefighter Michael Cammarata Place.

It was one of 81 street renaming ceremonies announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to honor the fallen heroes of September 11, Joseph says in his book.

In the middle of 2002, the Cammarata family established the Firefighter Michael F. Cammarata Foundation, initially intended to provide scholarships to students from Tottenville High School who went on to attend college. But the Cammarata family, very active in the hockey community on Staten Island, having organized a charity hockey game in 2002. “The Fire Department of New York played against Michael’s childhood friends as another way of making his spirit live on,” Joseph said in a recent phone interview.

Because of their active role in the hockey community, “we found out that there were kids who wanted to play hockey, but couldn’t afford the equipment,” Joseph said of his family.

Kingdom Ave. at Hylan Blvd. in Staten Island, NY

At that point, the foundation changed its objective to providing money for kids who wanted to play hockey but couldn’t’ afford the equipment. On, three top-rated hockey sticks priced at $19.99, $69.99, and $99.97; top-rated ice skates range from $39.99 to $99.97; top-rated helmets range in price from $49.97 to $84.99. These competitive prices are indicative of the significant cost of playing ice hockey. This doesn’t include all the other necessary equipment and the fees required to play in an organized league.

As of today, Joseph said that the Firefighter Michael Cammarata Foundation has helped “a couple hundred students” either play hockey or ease the costs of achieving a college education.