Remembering Bells


As we just observed the 17th anniversary of Sept. 11, we continue to remember and honor those who perished in the World Trade Center. We must never forget.
In August, for the 17th year, I chose to take the ride from Syosset to Rockaway Beach, to honor my cousin, Steve Belson, who died at age 51. Known by his friends and neighbors in Rockaway Beach as “Bells,” Steve had spent many years as a New York City lifeguard there before he became a firefighter. Steve was last seen in the lobby of the South Tower. I remember well, a video of Steve, going into the South Tower, carrying extra cylinders of oxygen.
“That was Steve, always heads up, doing his job,” said fellow firefighter Steve “Wojo” Wojciechowski, of Ladder 24 on West 31st Street in Manhattan, where Steve was known as “Mr. Ladder 24.”
Over the years, the beach at 92nd Street, where Steve patrolled as a lifeguard was named “Bells Beach.” The plaque showing Steve, with his sunglasses and firefighters mustache, was lost during Hurricane Sandy but miraculously recovered.
So I was there, again, with Steve’s longtime friends and those who never knew him, to remember and honor him. A few minutes into the annual half-mile swim, I was thinking about Steve, in his “twin life roles,” of lifeguard and firefighter, saving so many lives. Since that tragic day on 9/11, I learned of many others of Ladder 24 who died, including their captain and also legendary FDNY Chaplain Father Mychal Judge, of St. Francis of Assisi Church, also on W.31st Street.
May we never forget all the bravest firefighters and the finest police officers who ran in to the Twin Towers to save people and the more than 3000 civilians who died in this tragic attack on America. Maybe it’s time to reflect on the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial, the magnificent World Trade Center Museum and the strength of our people in this great nation we call the United States of America.
—Michael J. Weinstein

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