Thursday, September 17, 2009

Honoring Richard Allen Pearlman: Remembering a 9/11 Hero

By Patricia Adams

September 11, 2001 is a day people recall vividly—without having to close their eyes. Most remember exactly what they were doing when they learned that Americans were under terrorist siege. And most can remember the sensation of paralysis that came over them when they felt the presence of terror in their midst.

But there were those people who had a unique reaction to the horror of 9/11. Upon learning of the events they rushed to the site of the attacks. They abandoned all sense of selfish reasoning and with no regard for obvious danger, they moved forward to help others whose might still be alive.

Richard Allen Pearlman was the youngest victim of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The Howard Beach resident was working for a law firm as a messenger and was delivering a package to One Police Plaza when he learned what was happening not far away. Pearlman immediately headed for the World Trade Center.

Upon arriving, the 18-year-old rushed into a building to aid in the rescue effort. Despite the chaos at the scene, Richard’s heroics were later confirmed by a Newsweek photo that shows him helping a woman covered in blood, but alive, from one of the towers. After getting her to safety, he ran back in to find more survivors. Shortly after, the towers came down. Richard Pearlman was on the missing list.

Last Friday night, eight years later, the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps held a ceremony, unveiling a wall created in honor of Richard Pearlman’s dedication to the department, his heroics on 9-11 and his achievement as a member of the corps.

Following a tearful invocation by corps member Michael Rizzo, Alan Wolfe, president of the Corps, was among the first to remember Pearlman at the ceremony. He described Richard as energetic - always excited to do his job. “One year ago today, I promised that we would create a wall in his honor,” said Wolfe. “Sometimes in the face of horrible tragedy, ordinary people do extraordinary things, now everyone who visits the Corps will be able to see what type of a hero Richard was.”

Chief Daniel Exler told attendees that he and Richard didn’t always see eye to eye. The chief joked with Pearlman parents, Dorie and Barry, about his disagreements with their son. But Exler turned serious as he shared what he saw as the real Richard Pearlman. “Richie could have lived anywhere, but he would have found his way to Forest Hills.”

And that sentiment was shared by everyone present who had words to say about the young hero of 9-11. Speaker after speaker associated an extraordinary dedication by Pearlman for his beloved ambulance corps.

At the end of the speeches the crowd was asked to move to the inside the building for the unveiling of the wall. Once assembled inside, with Pearlman’s parents standing by, a cord was pulled revealing the fruits of the effort put forth by the corps to honor their hero.

Photos, certificates and newspaper articles fill the space, telling the story of heroic action taken by Pearlman on 9-11.

Visitors filed by to view the wall as Pearlman’s mother looked on. When asked what the dedication meant to her, Dorie Pearlman told The Forum, “The corps and the Boy Scouts were everything to my son. They were his life,” said Dorie Pearlman. “This day means my son is not forgotten. It means he never will be forgotten.”

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