FDNY Bravest Recalls Tragic Day

Firefighter Joey DiBernardo said with horrifying recall: "When I hit the ground, I felt my body was full of broken glass.

"I knew I'd be banged up. But broken glass inside you. Weird feeling."

Near him on that terrible Black Sunday, 32 days ago, was Lt. Curt Meyran, a giant heart of a man who would have no pain again.

Heaven had open arms for him, and his three kids have problems accepting the Almighty right now. Not too far away, John Bellew perished. God needed a few good men that day.

Brendan Cawley was a miraculous survivor after a giant 50-foot plunge from that blazing building on East 178th Street in The Bronx. Another colleague, Gene Stolowski, was shattered unimaginably. But he's gonna make it. Jeff Cool, Joey D.'s partner, was crumpled; but he's going to make it, too.

"It was a routine fire that became a disaster in 10 seconds," said Joey.

DiBernardo was on the eighth floor of the Cornell Medical Center and having difficulty talking. His was a labored rasp about which one of his ball-busting friends commented: "You're trying out for Godfather IV, right?"

Joey D. is saying (can you believe it?), "I'm sorry about the accident. I think I did ask someone what floor I fell from."

Sorry? For living to save people? These firefighters. I mean what can you say about them and their bravery?

"When he sees the pictures of the guys that didn't make it, he cries," said Joey D.'s father, Joe DiBernardo II, a firefighter for 35 years, 21 of them as a chief. "It's always in the back of his mind."

At Cornell yesterday, there was another roller-coaster ride for young Joey: His temperature zoomed to 102. He survived the fall, then suddenly he was battling respiratory failure. He survived that and the operations. Now he's battling fever.

"He's going to survive that," said Chief Joey D. II.

Joey III and Joey II flashed two thumbs up, but Joey III realizes it won't be all right unless someone gets him to the church on time.

His sister Carolyn is getting married to Lance Lovejoy on Sept. 9 and Joey's determined to be there.

"Joey was saying to me he was sorry if he screwed up anything," said Lovejoy. "And here he is laying in bed worrying about his sister's wedding."

You can bet on it.

And there's another Joey D., Joey D. I. He's the grandpa who told his grandson that there were people who read about our stories and sent him some Omaha Steaks. Joey III says, "I take the fall, and Grandpa eats steaks. Grandpa, please."

Joey's family refuses to allow depression to take over