Joseph P. “Joey D” DiBernardo was born on December 9, 1970. Growing up, he spent much time at work with his father, a New York City fire officer and chief. Joey’s childhood dream to become a New York City firefighter came to fruition in 1995. In 2000, he was assigned to the elite Rescue Company 3 in the Bronx/Harlem section of New York City. Joe became well known as he lectured and taught all the rescue disciplines at conferences and seminars across the country.
On January 23, 2005, Rescue 3 responded to a tenement fire in the Bronx. This day came to be known as “Black Sunday” in FDNY history, as three firefighters died that day in the line of duty, two in the Bronx and one in Brooklyn.
Due to illegal partitions, blocked fire escapes, and lack of personal safety ropes, firefighters became trapped on the top floor in a backdraft and were forced to jump out the windows to the rear courtyard five stories below. Two members died on impact, and four others suffered life threatening injuries.
Trapped in the room adjacent to Joe was Firefighter Jeff Cool. Jeff had a personal safety rope which he had purchased on his own, but due to fire conditions he had no place to secure the rope. Jeff courageously yelled to Joe that he would throw him the rope and lower him. Joe responded, “No. You are married with kids. Throw me the rope, and I will lower you.” Jeff threw Joe the rope, and he quickly tied it around his body. Jeff leaped out the window as the room flashed over and landed in the side alley. These ten feet most likely saved his life. Joe tied the rope off quickly on the child guard and jumped as the room flashed over. He landed five stories below in the rear courtyard, breaking bones from the waist down. He went into respiratory arrest and a coma and had a prolonged hospital and nursing home recovery and rehabilitation, where he had to learn to walk again on his shattered feet. During his recovery, he was promoted to lieutenant.
On November 22, 2011, Joe passed away as a result of injuries suffered on Black Sunday. He was awarded the IAFF Medal of Honor, the New York City Medal of Supreme Sacrifice, and the FDNY Medal of Valor.
To continue his legacy, the Lieutenant Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation was created for the charitable purpose of providing financial assistance to fire departments across America and Canada that need Personal Safety Systems. Educational training seminars related to firefighter safety are given annually by the Foundation.
Joe is survived by his parents, Barbara and Joseph G. DiBernardo, Deputy Chief, FDNY (ret); his sister, Carolyn Ingoglia; and his niece and Goddaughter, Gabriella Ann Ingoglia.