Letter to a Father
Orio Joseph Palmer, 45, a 20-year veteran of the New York Fire Department, was the battalion chief of Engine Company 3 and Ladder 12 in Chelsea. He lived in Valley Stream, N.Y., with his wife, Debbie, and their three children, Dana, 14, Keith, 12, and Alyssa, 9. Dana wrote a letter to him in her journal. Here are excerpts:
"A friend gave me the idea of writing to you. She said it might help. Oh, how I wish you could write back, or I could hear your voice again, or see you — even if it's just a quick glimpse. I hate knowing that you're really not coming home this time, and all I remember about when I saw you last was that I was doing my homework when I got up and kissed you goodbye. I didn't know it would be forever, though.
"When I was listening to all your favorite music the other day, I thought I would feel sad and I'd miss you. But instead, I felt closer to you, and it was quite comforting because there's not one time that I can remember when you didn't have the radio on. You were the music man.
"Always know that you're my hero. I could never compare any man to you because that would be unfair to him. For, like Keith said, you're one of a kind — the very best there is out there.
"My birthday is coming up, but I'm sure you already knew that. It won't be the same without you, and I'm not really looking forward to it. I feel that way about a lot of things, though. I would do anything to have you back.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on January 29, 2002.