Orio Joseph Palmer

Battalion Chief Led Kids in Fun

At breakfast time, Orio Palmer would pop in a Rascals CD and do goony
dances around his Valley Stream kitchen singing "It's a Beautiful Morning."
The kids laughed, and called him the Music Man.

The New York City fire battalion chief, who'd had it tough growing up in the
Bronx, would take the neighborhood kids out fishing on days off, just because
he'd never gotten to do that himself as a boy.

He was determined to teach all the kids stickball, too, an almost-lost art he
mastered at their age.

And when he and his wife, Debbie, were invited to a Halloween toga party, a
white sheet wasn't enough for Palmer: He had to wear a pink one, put high
heels onto his sandals and arrive as the "Boy Toy From Troy."

On their refrigerator, Debbie Palmer still keeps the saying her husband taped
there before he led the men of his Manhattan battalion to the World Trade
Center Sept. 11: "Live while you're alive." 

Sixteen members of Battalion 7 were lost along with Palmer, 45, whose
remains have not yet been recovered from the trade center rubble. He was
remembered Oct. 13 in a ceremony at Holy Name of Mary Roman Catholic
Church in Valley Stream, the community where the couple have lived for 15
years and raised their three children, Dana, 14, Keith, 12, and Alyssa, 9.

A graduate of Cardinal Spellman High School and Westchester Community
College, Palmer joined the fire department 20 years ago at Engine Co. 46 in
the Bronx. He transferred to firehouses in Brooklyn and Queens as he worked
his way up the promotional ladder before landing with Battalion 7 on West
19th Street in Manhattan. That battalion protects the Empire State Building,
Madison Square Garden and Pennsylvania Station.

Palmer became known to hundreds of co-workers over the past years as an
instructor for firefighters studying for promotional exams. He also used his
teaching skills to write articles for the fire department newspaper on safety
topics such as the dangers of buildings with separate up and down "scissor"
staircases, and ways to communicate in tunnels and buildings when radios

Palmer's community has been tending his family since the attacks. Total
strangers have sent cards and letters of support, and neighbors continue to
drop off meals and groceries. The mail carrier left bagels on the doorstep, and
tradespeople call asking if there's anything they can fix. At school, teachers
and guidance counselors have taken the kids under their wing. Even the
sanitation crews have been carrying the family garbage cans up the driveway
and leaving them neatly by the side of the house.

"They just want to do any little thing," his wife said. "What I've learned is
that there is a lot more good in the world than bad." 

-- Elizabeth Moore (Newsday)