A firefighter who braved the frigid waters of the Kill van Kull to rescue a woman on Dec. 13 shrugged off praise for his heroic action yesterday, saying it was a natural reaction.
"I was just trying like we do every day -- to save someone's life," Firefighter Thomas Feaser told Borough President James Molinaro, during a recognition ceremony.
About 30 firefighters from Ladder Co. 78 and Engine Co. 155, which also aided in the rescue, gathered in Borough Hall yesterday in support of their colleague. Molinaro also honored Firefighter Joseph Pigott of Ladder 78, who helped pull the woman to safety.
"We're very fortunate on Staten Island and in New York City to have people like you who put your lives on the line," Molinaro told the firefighters. "I'm very fortunate to be borough president of a place like Staten Island, where our firefighters are heroes."
Molinaro gave both men Certificates of Appreciation and both New Brighton companies received a proclamation.
On Dec. 13, Li Yi (Mei) Lu was spotted floating face-down under a New Brighton pier off Richmond Terrace at York Avenue. Feaser, wearing his cold-water diving suit, jumped into the water without waiting for a tether, because he was afraid Ms. Lu might die if he delayed.
"I think it's special that he [Feaser] went into the water without concern for his life," Molinaro said. "His first thought was, there's someone in danger."
Pigott followed suit and went to the river's edge to help pull Ms. Lu to safety. The men put the victim on a ladder, which their fellow firefighters from Ladder 78 and Engine 155 used to maneuver her up to the pavement, where she could be revived by EMS workers.
Eleven men from the two companies worked to rescue her.
Ms. Lu was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital, West Brighton, in critical but stable condition. Capt. John Graziano, commanding officer of Ladder 78, announced that Ms. Lu is now alert and doing well.
"That in itself is a reward for us," he said.
Ms. Lu, a resident of the Anna Erika Home for Adults in New Brighton, was described as emotionally disturbed by authorities at the time of the incident.
"It took less than three minutes from the time we got there to get her out," Graziano said. "The coordination and cooperation with which they [companies] operated really saved a lot of time so she could survive."
Feaser, a Richmond resident, is a 23-year FDNY veteran. He survived two building collapses on Sept. 11. Pigott, an 11-year FDNY veteran and a Grant City resident, also was working that day.
"Maybe there's a reason why you were saved on 9/11," Molinaro told the firefighters. "Because of you, there are a lot of people who are alive today."