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QC10082015

8 The QUEE NS Courier • october 8, 2015 for breaking news visit www.queenscourier.com Avonte Oquendo’s family to hold March for Safety in Long Island City BY ANGELA MATUA amatua@queenscourier.com @AngelaMatua To mark the second anniversary of the death of Avonte Oquendo, an autistic teenager who disappeared from The Riverview School in Long Island City, family members and friends will hold a March for Safety in his honor. The march will be held on Oct. 10 at Hunters Point South Park in Long Island City from 1 to 3 p.m. Oquendo,14, managed to run through a side door of the Center Boulevard school on Oct. 4, 2013. After an extensive three-month search, his remains were found washed up in College Point. The teen’s disappearance spurred elected officials to pass several bills including Avonte’s Law, which requires the city’s Department of Education to evaluate if schools should install alarms on their doors. More than 21,000 alarms are expected to be installed in schools across the city. State Sen. Charles Schumer introduced a separate bill last January also called Avonte’s Law, which will create and fund a program providing voluntary tracking devices and increase support services for families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or any other developmental conditions in which bolting is common. The program would only include children whose parents choose to use the devices. Oquendo’s family attorney David Perecman said the march will be held to remember the “needless loss of a young life” and to remind the city to “stay the course” and finish installing alarms in each school that needs one. Perecman also said he hopes that the city and Department of Education hold up another requirement of the bill, which mandates that school safety plans and preventative measures are evaluated by the DOE to make sure an incident like this never happens again. Perecman also said the march will “lend support to what is currently Senator Schumer’s effort to get Avonte’s Law passed on a federal level.” Vanessa Fontaine, Oquendo’s mother has filed a wrongful death suit against the city, claiming the city, Department of Education and NYPD were neglectful when they allowed the teenager to leave the school unsupervised. BY ANGELA MATUA amatua@queenscourier.com/ @AngelaMatua Firefighters past and present gathered at the headquarters of Engine Company 295 and Ladder Company 144 in Whitestone on Oct. 1 to celebrate the units’ 100 years of service in the community. The ceremony commemorated the service of every person who walked through the doors of the firehouse at 12-49 149th St. Active and retired firefighters, along with elected officials, spoke about the important duty this line of work demands. Chief of Department James E. Leonard addressed the crowd to relay the impact that each individual has on Whitestone and surrounding communities. “We’re the largest fire department in the country, but it still comes down to individual firefighters and companies protecting individual neighborhoods,” Leonard said. “So to the retired firefighters here, thank you for laying the foundation and we are standing on the shoulders of giants. You created where we are today.” During the ceremony, the stories of three firefighters who lost their lives were relayed to the crowd to illustrate the sacrifice that is ultimately a part of the job. Frederick Zeigler and William Austin were killed while responding to a boat fire in the East River in 1947. The gas tank on the boat exploded, badly injuring Zeigler and Austin. Both men died of their injuries at Flushing Hospital. Walter Voight, a first responder during 9/11, died from illness related to the attacks. “Though they served in far different times, each firefighter served in the exact same way — with true bravery and valor,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said. “They never hesitated in their sworn duty. They went towards the danger trying to save others. That is act which defines this department — and it is a tradition, much like their memory, which will always live within these walls.” Firefighters were honored with a plaque to hang in their 100-year-old fire house. Captain Ken Ruggerio of Engine Company 295 said he knew he wanted to be a firefighter when, as a young boy living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, he would see firefighters rush to the scene of a tragedy and use their problem solving skills to diffuse any situation. “To me it’s the dedication, the commitment, the bravery and knowing that any problem that arises in the neighborhood, a firefighter is ready to help,” Ruggerio said. “When you call the Fire Department, we’re here to fix the problem.” Whitestone firehouse celebrates 100 years of service THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua Firefighters gathered in Whitestone to celebrate 100 years of service. File photo Avonte Oquendo’s family will hold a March for Safety to mark the second anniversary of the teenager’s death.


QC10082015
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