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Tom Orlando

December 19, 1962 - December 4, 2008

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2014 Tommy O Scholarship Recipients

Caroline Finnen and Nicole Valentino
 
Caroline and Bill Donlon
Caroline and Bill Donlon
Ed Hebron and Nicole
Ed Hebron and Nicole
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2013 Tommy O Scholarship Recipients

Casey Lang and Caitlyn Wynne
 
Caitlyn and Casey
Caitlyn and Casey
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012 Tommy O Scholarship Recipients

Kelly Carroll, Amanda Khozouri and Courtney Ruvolo

Courtney and Amanda
Courtney and Amanda

Nancy Orlando with Kelly Carroll and her family.
Nancy Orlando with Kelly Carroll and her family.

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011 Tommy O Scholarship Recipients

Marissa Mertens and Kevin Quinn



Nancy Orlando, Marissa and Ed Hebron
Nancy Orlando, Marissa and Ed Hebron

Kevin Quinn
Kevin Quinn

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010 Tommy O Scholarship Recipients


Jennifer Rooney and Caroline Urbielewicz


Thomas Orlando, Nancy Orlando, Meghan Orlando, Jennifer Rooney and Caroline Urbielewicz

 
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Thomas Orlando Children's Education Fund

The FDNY Foundation has established a Education Fund for the Orlando children.  Donations should be mailed to:

FF Thomas Orlando Children's Education Fund
c/o FDNY Foundation
9 Metro Tech Center Rm. 5E-10
Brooklyn, NY 11201




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The Fighter of the Year - by Robert Cassidy of Newsday

At this time of year, the writers and pundits start talking about the Fighter of the Year award. And really, who could argue with Manny Pacquiao? After how easily he dominated Oscar De La Hoya, it would be difficult not to pick Pac Man.

But I have a different selection.

His name is Tommy Orlando and he was one of the toughest guys I knew.

Odds are, if you weren't from Levittown, weren't a member of the FDNY or didn't spend your time watching youth sports in Hicksville, you probably never heard of Tommy Orlando. That's your loss. Not your fault, but your loss nonetheless.

I am going to tell you what you missed because now, it's our loss too. Tommy Orlando died last week. I'm told he fell off a roof while helping a family member install solar panels. He would have been 46 in a few weeks. He leaves behind a wife, Nancy, and two children, Meghan and Thomas. And there are extended families on each side, parents, brothers, sisters, in-laws, nieces, nephews. And his brother Benny, two grades younger at Division Avenue High School, and every bit as tough as his brother.

As a kid, Tommy used to box at Echo Park. He had a heavybag in his garage and boxing trophies and medals in his bedroom. I remember thinking how cool that was whenever I went to their house. I knew Tommy and Benny since about the age of 10.

Whether we were playing street hockey on Crabtree Lane or tackle football at the North Village Green, you always wanted Tommy on your team. The primary reason was because you never really wanted to have to tackle him once he broke into the open field. Tommy was a great athlete and an even greater guy. He was always grinning, this crooked kind of grin as if he knew a joke and you didn't. The joke was usually on the kid who tried to tackle him. But after he ran you over on the field, an hour later he'd be laughing about with you.

The athletic success continued at Division Avenue High School, where Tommy excelled in football, wrestling and baseball. He was our T.O. long before Terrel Owens came along.

Tommy married his high school sweetheart, Nancy Leder. They were the perfect Levittown couple, the type of down-to-earth people that Billy Joel could have written beautiful lyrics about. "Do you remember those days hanging out at the village green?"

Hundreds of people showed up at Tommy's wake. The line wrapped around the building and mourners stood in the frigid cold just for the chance to say goodbye to an American hero. Every Sunday, we watch football players on television and make a big deal of their heroic acts on the gridiron. At a time likes this, I think, what's the big deal? Because Tommy was the real deal.

Tommy was a hero when it counted most -- when no one was looking. Tommy was a hero where it counted most -- inside his home and inside his fire house. He was the best kind of hero because he did the right thing without the fanfare, without the spotlight. He did it simply because it was the right thing to do.

Tommy made it out of one of the Twin Towers shortly before it collapsed on September 11. If anyone was going to walk away from that carnage, we knew it was T.O. The following summer, the International Boxing Hall of Fame was looking to honor a New York City fire fighter during induction weekend. I nominated Tommy. He and Nancy attended the weekend. And I will never forget people like Marvin Hagler, Alexis Arguello, Lou Duva, thanking Tommy for what he had done for our country.

During that weekend, Tommy was so unassuming and was trying to deflect the attention even at a time when the spotlight should have been shining upon him. That was Tommy. That was the last time I saw him.

Somewhere down inside, we all probably felt Tommy was invincible. That was one reason word of his passing was so hard to accept. "He was a bull," said Paul. "He was like a rock," said Cory.

I had lost touch with a lot of high school friends. But by chance, I ran into "Brownie," on a New York City subway last week. Four days later I saw him again at Tommy's wake. "I haven't seen you in years," he said, "Now I see you twice in the same week." As nice as it was to see him, we both could have done without the second meeting.

Thinking back, I had probably seen Tommy's face just about every day of my high school existence -- yet I hadn't seen him once over the last six years. It's hard to reconcile that right now. I will always be sorry for that.

But this is what I will always remember about Tommy Orlando. My junior year of high school, running meat grinders at the end of football practice. A meat grinder is when you sprint the perimeter of a football field until the coaches decide you are tired. I remember being bent over, my chest expanding, gasping for air. But looking up, there was Tommy, standing ramrod straight, clapping his hands. His eyes were clear and focused, looking forward to the next challenge.

I'm guessing that was the same way he walked into the Twin Towers on Sept. 11. He was not the type to flinch. Tommy was the type to stand up and be counted. Especially, when and where it counted the most.

We'll miss you Tommy.


LI Flag Football League MVP - by George Higgins of the LIFFL

It's with great sadness that I learned of the passing of one of the great original players in the LIFFL. As reported in today's Newsday, Tom Orlando, 45, died from a fall while helping a friend install solar panels. As the Running Back for the Levittown Dragons(1985-1988), Tom was easily the most feared Running Back of the league's early years. Having played against him myself, I can tell you firsthand that I have seldom seen anyone with more burst-speed before or since. The Levittown Dragons were bruising blockers and when they got Tommy a hole, he was off to the races. That same speed got Tommy numerous FDNY recommendations on 9/11 where his FDNY superiors credited him with dozens of rescues as he raced up & down those burning towers. A Levittown Division graduate, he was selected the LIFFL's MVP in 1985 when he lead the Dragons to their Nassau title that year. The 1985 Super Bowl vs the Commack Bulldogs was the LIFFL's first Nassau-Suffolk Super Bowl. The Commack Bulldogs won the game by focusing their defense on Tommy Orlando. He leaves behind his wife & 2 children. He exemplified the best of the kind of character that makes up, and has made up the LIFFL through the years.

A Tribute to Tommy O - by Ed Hebron of Holy Family CYO

Sometimes heroes disguise themselves as everyday people. Their extraordinary deeds become so routine that we fail to recognize the greatness of the person until they are gone. While Tommy Orlando's humility made him reticent to discuss his exploits it is with great pride that I relate but a few.

Up until his tragic and sudden death on Dec. 4, Tommy Orlando was a New York City firefighter. In this capacity he put his life on the line daily, but never more so than on September 11, 2001. On that day he raced up the staircases of the World Trade Center and saved the lives of countless people. Despite knowing full well the risks he faced, he only abandoned his rescue efforts when superiors ordered him out of the building, just prior to its collapse.

On Feb. 27, 2007, Elmont High School girl's basketball coach Gregg Petrocelli collapsed on the sideline during a game against Hicksville High School. Tommy's daughter Meghan played for the Hicksville team. Without hesitation, Tommy leapt from his seat and rushed to the fallen coach's side. Tommy used his EMT skills in a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to save the coach's life.

Tommy was a longtime coach and board member of Holy Family CYO. He was also CYO's handyman. Tommy could often be found in Holy Family's gym changing light bulbs, repairing scoreboards or installing safety padding. Tommy's commitment and dedication to the children of Holy Family CYO were unmatched.

The ubiquitous Tommy O. also coached baseball, soccer and lacrosse in Hicksville. A father of a boy Tommy coached in baseball emailed me after his death. He wrote, "Tom was a man to whom our children gravitated, with his warmth, humor and compassion. The positive impact he had on my son was profound and everlasting." Tommy had that impact on so many of us.

His brother firefighters from Engine Company 65 referred to Tommy as "the mayor of 43rd Street." At home his neighbors referred to Tommy as the "mayor of 6th street." The title of "mayor" was bestowed upon Tommy because of his concern for and eagerness to help those he came in contact with.

Someone once wrote, "By hero, we tend to mean a heightened man who, more than other men, possesses qualities of courage, loyalty, resourcefulness, charisma, and above all, selflessness. He is an example of right behavior, the sort of man who risks his life to protect society's values, sacrificing his personal needs for those of the community." By this or any or standard Tommy was a hero. 

9/11 Hero Dies While Helping Friend - by Zachary R. Dowdy of Newsday

In his roles as husband, father, firefighter and friend, Thomas Orlando of Hicksville never failed to impress, co-workers and friends said.  The 45-year-old Levittown native who on 9/11 used his athletic prowess to race up dozens of flights of stairs in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on one of the nation's darkest days seemed to be good at everything he tried.

On that fateful day, a friend said, Orlando emerged from the rubble of the disaster, just escaping the cascading metal, concrete and glass of the imploding edifices, and vowed to live life more fully than he had before.

"He lived every day after that like it was a gift," said his longtime friend, Michael Lavelle. "He loved his wife, the community, and he loved the firehouse." But he died Thursday doing what everybody knew him to do best: helping a friend.  Orlando died after a fall while helping a friend install solar panels Thursday. He was pronounced dead at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip.

He lent a hand to friends and coached neighborhood kids and his own son and daughter in sports, organizing family outings and events on his block on Sixth Street in Hicksville like a maestro would an orchestra.  "He was a great father," Lavelle said. "He was the mayor of Sixth Street. He was a walking Mardi Gras."  Added Lavelle: "He was looked upon as the guy who organized everything."

"Tommy O," as he was nicknamed, was the life of Engine 65 in Manhattan, where for 17 years he brought comfort and mirth to colleagues. "He was a great leader," said Chris LaRocca, who served in the firehouse with Orlando. "And a true teacher in the firehouse."  Capt. Matthew Murtagh, who recalled Orlando's bravery on Sept. 11, 2001, called Orlando his "go-to guy."

At his wake yesterday, scores of mourners crowded into Dalton Funeral Home in Hicksville to pay their respects. Some wore the navy blue uniforms of the Fire Department of New York.

Orlando graduated from Levittown Division High School. While there, he met his wife-to-be, Nancy, with whom he raised two children, Meghan, 15, and Thomas, 11. He went to Nassau Community College and then on to the University of New Hampshire, which he attended on a wrestling scholarship. For a time, he worked as an electrician, but he found his niche in the fire department.

An education fund has been set up for Orlando's children through the FDNY foundation. In addition to his wife and children, Orlando is survived by his parents, Benedict and Immaculatta Orlando; two brothers, James and Benny; and two sisters, Victoria Lietgeb and Jeanne Orlando; and several nieces and nephews.

 

Newsday Blog Entry - by Tony Russo (Division Ave High School - Class of '81)

Cass,

It's been almost 30 years, since we've spoken, but I want to thank you for an amazing tribute for a great guy, and even better human being. It's been a week and a half since I received "that call" from Pat Carew, and I am, like I'm sure like so many of us are, saying, "it just doesn't make sense, and isn't right."

I've spent that time trying to reconcile the loss, and have tried to describe Tommy, what he meant to me, and who he was, to friends of mine, that did not have the good fortune to have ever met him, but have heard a few of my stories about the fun we had years ago. I've reached this conclusion: They say that unless you've visited the Grand Canyon, no pictures descriptions, or experiences through the eyes of another can capture the sheer beauty and enormity of it. Was Tommy O any different? I don't think so, as to really understand him, you had to experience him..... He was, and remains, that special person that perhaps you meet only once in your lifetime, (if you are fortunate).

I saw the anguish Nancy and his family were experiencing, the shock on Meghan and Thomas' faces, and thought again, "How does this make sense?" No matter how we try to grasp it, it just doesn't...
I now ask what examples has Tommy set and what would he want us to do moving forward. His loss remains incomprehensible, and indescribable, but I think he'd pass on a few thoughts:

- His unbridled passion for life was boundless, he'd say, "Live each day as it it was to be your last"

- His warm smile would tell us, "Pick up the phone or look up an email address and reconnect with an old friend

- His unwavering devotion to his family tells us, "Hug the most important people in your life and tell them how much you love them and what they mean to you"

- His heroic exploits have shown us, "No man stands taller than when he leans over to help someone else" Help someone else today.

He set the example so many of continue to try to emulate, devoted husband, loving father, caring son, brother, and friend, humble hero, and yes, the most competitive person you'd ever meet, and one heck of an athlete..... He saw a mountain and said, "Let's climb it". We'd ask, "Why?", and you guessed right, he responded, "Because it's there, and we can......"

I regret letting so much time pass since I last spoke to Tommy in the weeks following 9/11, and will live with that regret for as long as I live, but I really believe Tommy would say to us, "No regrets... Live life to it's fullest every day"