Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Four names, four friends, four fallen heroes

Russell Randolph held the homemade memorial with tenderness throughout Tuesday's annual Tribute to Heroes remembrance service at Palmetto's Sutton Park.
Small black-and-white photos were attached to four American flags on a small wooden stand.
The men in the photos were Jonathan Ielpi, Ray Downey and brothers Peter and Thomas Langone.
All but Thomas Langone, a New York City policeman, were New York firefighters. Downey was a widely respected deputy chief.
All were killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11.
All were personal friends of Randolph, a retired firefighter himself.
He knew the Langones and Ielpi when they were all volunteer firefighters in Long Island together.
"This day is about them," said the 51-year-old. "I like to remember them the way they were, four family men, four devoted guys, four brothers I miss very much."
Randolph was already in Bradenton when 9/11 took place, but those men are never far from his thoughts.
He builds a new homemade memorial every year.
"I usually leave it at the 9/11 Memorial (at Rossi Park), but this one I'm going to keep for next year," said the firefighter for 22 years, including stints with the Braden River and Southern Manatee Fire Districts.
Something Randolph's nephew did to honor them still gives him goosebumps.
Austin Slate, a Bayshore High School graduate, was a "green shirt" aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, one of the crew who handle the catapult and arresting gear and do aircraft maintenance, too.
He knew of his uncle's feelings for those four men.
So during the war in Iraq, Slate wrote their names
on the ordnance of an F-18 Super Hornet before one mission.
When the pilot saw this and asked the young carrier crewman what was up, Slate told him about his uncle and his four fallen friends.
"The pilot told Austin he'd be happy to drop 343 of them --- one for every firefighter killed on 9/11," Randolph said.

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