Retired New York City Fire Department Lt. Al Warta stepped to the lectern to read a letter from firefighter Kevin J. Smith’s old captain, a man who last saw Smith on Sept. 11, 2001. The captain remembered Smith as a calming presence even as he stepped into the World Trade Center tower where he lost his life, Warta said.
“He was a cool figure in the center of chaos,” read Warta, dressed in full uniform, his voice quaking. “The spirit of Kevin J. Smith will live on.”
Warta was among about 100 of Smith’s colleagues and family members who gathered yesterday at the corner of Mastic Road and Somerset Avenue to watch officials dedicate Mastic Road as “Kevin J. Smith Road.”
Smith, a Marine corporal who was 47 when he died, spent 23 years with the FDNY. At the time of his death he worked as a hazardous material technician for New York City’s Haz-Mat Co. 1 in Maspeth, Queens.
Suffolk County Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) first proposed the idea of renaming the street last year after meeting Smith’s widow, Jerri, at a Mastic Fire Department function. The intersection of Mastic and Somerset is just a few feet from the home where Smith raised his family.
Jerri Smith, who attended the ceremony with six of her and Kevin’s eight children, said the dedication was fitting because her husband passed his love of public safety work on to the family. All eight children have volunteered for fire departments and ambulance companies, Jerri said.
“They were very proud of him and they wanted to be their father,” Jerri said.
Smith’s Maspeth firehouse lost 19 members on Sept. 11, Warta said. More than 340 firemen and paramedics died in the terrorist attacks.
In addition to his work with the FDNY, Smith also had been a member of the East Farmingdale Fire Company and later the Mastic Fire Department, family members said. As an FDNY member he responded to both the TWA Flight 800 crash on Long Island in 1996 and the 1989 aborted takeoff of U.S. Air Flight 5050 at LaGuardia Airport.
Firefighters yesterday paid tribute to Smith by hanging an American flag from the ladders of two fire trucks. A bagpiper played “God Bless America” and the “Marines’ Hymn.”
Brookhaven Town passed a resolution renaming the street, which is about three miles long, on Oct. 16. “I hope everyone who passes Somerset Avenue and Mastic Road will remember Kevin Smith’s sacrifice,” Browning said.