Robbie was an incredible man. He was the youngest and only son in a family of four children. His father passed away when he was 11‚ which left an indelible impact on his life. He became the man of the household and formed extraordinarily close relationships with his mother and three sisters. He was their caretaker‚ yet he was their baby.
The family loved each other unconditionally and had a bond not often seen in families today. Some may think that this would result in Robbie being a ‘mama’s boy’ but that was far from the truth. Robbie was a man’s man who was not above cooking and cleaning.
What was most special about Robbie was that he had the ability to make everyone feel loved and special. Anyone of his friends will tell you that Robbie was their best friend. He was the life of the party‚ the comedian‚ the daring one and the one you would turn to when you needed him most. He had a sense of honor and respect that lead him to join the U.S. Army‚ serving in the 82nd Airborne division as a Forward Observer. Robbie loved the Army; however Robbie’s love for the Army was exceeded by his love for his wife‚ Lorraine Ferrara Spear. Robbie left the Army to share his life with Lorraine. This was a decision of his for which Lorraine will forever be grateful.
Even after leaving the Army‚ Robbie’s sense of duty and honor drove his every action. About 1 year before joining the Army‚ Robbie took the test to become a New York City Fire Fighter. It was upon returning from his honeymoon in May of 1999 that he learned that there was a good chance he would be accepted ~thin the next year. In February 2000‚ when Robbie received the news that he had been accepted‚ he turned to Lorraine and asked if she would mind if he quit his job‚ take a 50% pay cut and become a NYC Fire Fighter. She told him that whatever he chose would be fine with her. He did not hesitate and started the academy a week later.
Robbie loved the FDNY more than anyone could imagine. It was his dream. The FDNY combined all of the qualities of the Army that Robbie loved most – the sense of camaraderie‚ the family-like atmosphere‚ putting your life in the hands of another and having them do the same.
In his 1-_ short years as a member of the FDNY‚ all of his dreams were coming true. He had a wonderful marriage and he had a wonderful career. His family and friends have said that they have never seen him happier. Yet it was in July of 2001 that Robbie and Lorraine decided that there was one thing missing to complete their happy life – a child. Robbie wanted to give his child everything he missed out due to his father’s passing. He always said his greatest regret was not having a father through his formative years. Fatherhood was going to be his greatest accomplishment of all. Unfortunately‚ it would never come to pass.
The last time Lorraine saw Robbie was September 9‚ Sunday evening. The next morning he was heading into the firehouse to begin his 24-hour tour. She spoke with him twice on the morning of September 11 – the second time the conversation began at 8:46 AM. Normally‚ he would have been relieved of duty by then‚ however the company was short staffed and he was waiting for a detail from another company to relieve him – normal happenings in the FDNY. He continued telling me what he was going to be doing for the rest of the day and the week ahead. Of course this included spending most of the week with his sister Christine‚ helping her fix up her newly purchased home. While they were speaking‚ she heard an announcement over the firehouse PA system. The announcement stated that there was a 2-alarm fire at the WTC. He asked her if she had heard the announcement and she said yes. His last words to her were ‘If you don’t hear from me by 10:30‚ cancel my haircut appointment.’
She canceled his haircut at 10:28 AM after hearing that both towers had collapsed. That was the last anyone ever heard from Robbie but his legacy stays with us all today.
He was the godfather of four children and the uncle of seven. But most of all‚ he was a kind and loving man who lived life to its fullest and taught those closest to him to live each moment as if it were the last day of your life. This was an ideology that he adhered to – thank God he did.