Four Parachute Jumps And Ten Years Ago...
On September 19, 2011, for the fourth year in a row, an event like no other was held in upstate NY. It is held in honor and in memory of a fallen hero, from the attacks that took place on 9/11. With over 40 participants, the Fourth Annual FF Stephen P. Russell Memorial Sky- Dive was considered the biggest and best yet.
The tradition was started in 2008 when NYC firefighter and Rockaway Beach resident Christopher Russell created an event to commemorate a day his uncle never got to enjoy. Christopher’s uncle, Stephen Russell, was a firefighter in the Little Italy section of lower Manhattan. He was a family man, craftsman and adventurer, who was set for his first skydive on September 19, 2011. Steve never got to take that jump, because he and 342 fellow firefighters were killed on September 11 in the line of duty. So as to keep his outgoing spirit alive, this extreme event is held each year on the same date at the Blue Sky Ranch, in Gardiner, New York.
With over 30 new and experienced skydivers, as well as supporters from all over attending the event, the day was a ‘flying’ success. Food, drinks, stories and clear blue skies kept the blue tent set up on the edge of the landing zone buzzing with excitement and good times all day. With Christopher’s brother Evan and father Cliff (Stephen’s brother) working the BBQ, and close friends working the Donation Table there was a warm buzz in the air. Local Rockaway residents Christina Russell and Erika Russell were jumping for their second time and local experienced skydiver Bob Nelson was there to take the plunge. Firefighters from throughout New York City were also on hand to jump, enjoy and be entertained by their Brothers parachuting down from above. The event helped to raise substantial funds for the “Stephen Russell Educational Endowment Fund,” which helps to provide scholarships and tuition assistance for students of the Saint Rose of Lima School, in Rockaway Beach.
With the skydive growing each year, the event is set to be its biggest and best in 2012. Event attendees were excitedly saying: “I can’t wait for next year!” – Vincent Speciale, FDNY firefighter; “I’m so excited, I want to go again right now!” – Ashley Bishop, Bayville, NY; “This is a great event, I will definitely be back” – Robert Tilearcio, local FDNY firefighter. Event organizers advise, “So keep your calendars clear and hopefully the skies will continue to be clear on next September 19!”