Michael loved God and his family. He also loved New York City, went to Yankees games, and loved watching the Giants play. He relished in the positions of father and grandfather. All these things are true; however, high on the list was being a firefighter in New York City.
Growing up in the Bronx had its advantages and disadvantages—Central Park, museums, theaters. Michael rode his bicycle to and from school, through Harlem, to Rice High School on Lennox Avenue, where he graduated in 1977. Growing up a child of the city, “busy” was an understatement.
Michael Sr. was a firefighter of Irish decent. This fact opened doors, and he was going on ride-alongs at an early age. The atmosphere of the firehouse, the camaraderie of the brotherhood became a magnet, and in 1994 he became a New York City firefighter.
The graduating class of 1994 was the first class ever to be CFRD trained to handle medical emergencies of every kind. One of New York’s busiest firehouses, Engine 45-58, Battalion 18, on East Tremont Avenue, became his second home. He was privileged and honored to work with men with decades of experience under their belt. Approximately 9,000 calls a year, rescuing hundreds along the way, 45-58 fought fires daily. Having found his calling, Mike loved going to work. Michael spent months at Ground Zero, subsequently developing breathing problems and being retired because of it. In 2004, we moved to a house on the Tennessee River. After about four years, Mike went to work at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant.
The picture formed in Michael’s mind about how he’d spend his golden years disappeared like raindrops on water once he became ill. Near the end of his life, he thought not about the things he’d acquired in his lifetime, but of “time,” the only gift you cannot give or buy.
Michael “Big Bird” Smith is survived by his wife, Faith; daughter, Natalia; sons, Michael III and Dillon; two grandchildren and another due in October. He left us much too soon and will be remembered for his generous nature, dry sense of humor, and his dedication to being a firefighter no matter the cost…the kind of man who loved to fish and kept at it, even when he knew they weren’t biting.