A fallen Morris Park firefighter, known for his service as a 9/11 recovery worker, has been remembered by the highest ranks of the FDNY.
Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano and others paid tribute to Alexander Lopez with a plaque dedication ceremony on July 25.
Firefighters lined the block outside Morris Park’s Engine 90/Ladder 41 on White Plains Road near Morris Park Avenue for the unveiling of a bronze plaque honoring the 16-year veteran.
Among those taking part in the honor guard was Paul DeLeo of Ladder 41 and union rep.
“He was like a brother to me,” said DeLeo.
Chris Vignali, a firefighter assigned to Engine Company 90, said he looked at Lopez like a mentor.
“You still think he’s gonna come into the door,” said Vignali, who knew Lopez for 11 years.
Fellow firefighters saw him as a workaholic. “I don’t think I ever saw him sleep,” said Vignali.
“He hustled,” said DeLeo, remembering Lopez as a dedicated father, working jobs as a mover and chauffer to help take care of his kids. “He always stepped up to do the right thing.”
As a senior man in the firehouse, Lopez instilled a sense a loyalty to younger firefighters.
“If someone dies tomorrow,” said Vignali, “Alex would have wanted every firefighter to show up and have company pride.”
Always a jokester, Lopez’s humor was often coupled with his famous line, “What’s the matter, you can’t take it.” The line is now emblazoned on a tribute T-shirt for Lopez.
Born in Manhattan, Lopez joined the FDNY in 1995, working in Ladder Company 41 while rotating through other city fire houses. Spending a year in Queens and at another Bronx company, Lopez returned to Ladder 41 in 1998.
He was one of New York’s Bravest devoted to the recovery efforts at Ground Zero. The 16-year vet spent countless hours at The Hole, sifting through the debris for human remains.
But through the grim work of it all, Lopez found love. It was there he met his second wife Liz, a member of the Salvation Army.
The pair settled in Rockland County, buying a home in the small hamlet of Nanuet.
On Thursday, July 21, 2011, the 42-year-old firefighter unexpectedly died at home from a heart attack.
Despite his off-duty death, DeLeo considers it job related.
“Firefighters have a higher rate of heart disease than the general population,” said DeLeo.
He believes that and Lopez’ time spent at Ground Zero took a toll on his health.
While his death devastated his fellow Bravest, his legacy will not be forgotten, said Vignali.
“There are plenty of Alex stories to go around.”
Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383