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Community dines out to help 9/11 first responders

Pino’s Italian Kitchen and Bar owner and September 11 first responder Joe Sabia (left) with Corbin Wagoner (right) at the “Eat for a Cause” fundraiser.

By Lynne Marsala Basche; photos courtesy of Joseph Sabia

On September 11, 2001, current Castle Pines resident Joe Sabia was then a Commack Fire Department firefighter in New York. On that fateful Tuesday morning when planes flew into the World Trade Center, Sabia and his team descended into the destruction. From that day forward, Sabia became an advocate for all first responders, and on the 16th anniversary of that devastating day, Sabia’s Pino’s Italian Kitchen and Bar donated 10 percent of its dining sales to help those in need.

For some, September 11 is a painful memory, but for others, including thousands of first responders, they continue to deal with the effects of that day and the days that followed on a daily basis while fighting life-threatening September 11-related illnesses. Still others have symptoms that are regularly monitored, including Sabia. “That day became a way of life,” said Sabia.

“Every September 11 is filled with sad reflection and solitude,” said Sabia. “I become only a shadow in my house. I don’t talk much, and I just reflect on every name lost that day. I think about what was going through the minds of the 343 firefighters killed when the buildings started to fall, their families, etc.”

With the anniversary approaching and the need to do his part never to forget, Sabia said the idea to host an event at Pino’s to help first responders came to him out of nowhere. When he thought about the generosity of the Castle Pines community, the idea became a reality.

Commack Fire Department’s heavy rescue truck 9, which was Sabia’s rig he and his team responded with on September 11, 2001. The truck is parked at the southwest corner of the collapsed World Trade Center tower #2.

Sabia’s high school classmate John Feal was a fellow first responder and is the founder of the FealGood Foundation, which helps with the medical needs and care of emergency personnel, including firefighters, police officers, nurses, volunteers, iron workers and sanitation workers – basically everyone affected by illness and injuries while doing their jobs. Feal, along with Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, was instrumental in the passing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides health care monitoring and financial aid to the first responders, volunteers and survivors of the September 11 attacks. With firsthand knowledge about Feal’s organization, Sabia’s FealGood Foundation “Eat for a Cause” began.

“More than 350 Castle Pines residents and hundreds more who contacted me directly came together to never forget,” said Sabia. “It was humbling. I had tissues in my hands all night. One resident selected Pino’s to celebrate her 65th birthday. She did not know the event was going on. She said this was the first birthday in 16 years that put a smile on her face.”

With more than $8,000 raised, Sabia wants the Castle Pines community to know they made a difference on September 11. “This year, we turned all that negative energy into something positive,” said Sabia.

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