Richard Pearlman, 18, of Howard Beach, was honored on Sunday at the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps (FHVAC), where he used to volunteer.
In honor of Pearlman and his service, the FHVAC constructed a permanent memorial patch in front of their headquarters where a stone plaque will be placed.
Daniel Exler, a former FHVAC captain described the young Pearlman as, “energetic, always wanting to learn, wanting to be involved.”
Dorie Pearlman saw her son as a big and tough kid, but at the same time a “teddy bear.”
“He was a big kid for his age, everyone thought he was much older than he really was,” she said.
State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky thanked the Ambulance Corps for their constant work. For her they have a special meaning. “We’re here to remember the volunteers, they weren’t paid to go in," she said.
Also present were other local officials, World Trade Center survivor Sonia Varela, and Glen Schneider from Boy Scout Troop 106.
Schneider led a moment of silence and closed with the light ringing of six bells to represent the events of that dismal day of September 11. Pearlman had been a member of the troop before joining FHVAC.
On that Tuesday morning ten years ago, Pearlman was on an errand for his day job as a law clerk. He had gone to One Police Plaza in Lower Manhattan for some documents that weren’t available the day before.
“When the plane hit the tower, just like everyone in One Police Place that was there, everyone ran to the site and Richie was one them,” Exler said.
After showing his credentials, Pearlman was put on a police cruiser, and then headed on foot to meet with FHVAC ambulance Forest Hills 1, dispatched to the scene. But he never reached the crew.
Shortly before the south tower collapsed, a Newsweek reporter captured the 18-year-old helping someone.
Still a member of FHVAC, Pearlman had just turned 18, allowing him to leave the youth squad for the senior one. At FHVAC he learned how to be a dispatcher, learned radio codes and the function of an EMS.
“He was a great kid, loved what we did and [he] wanted to make this a long-time career," Exler said.
“He always wanted to do something and I was trying to keep him off the street,” said his mother, who registered him at 13. “It made him mature, it gave him a calling and a purpose.”
Mrs. Pearlman has spent four years fighting to get her son in the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program, which gives out a one-time payment of $250,000 to the families of first responders who died in the line of duty.
Although she was able to receive a small sum from the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund and was recognized at a White House ceremony for family members of a first responders, her son remains ineligible.
According to the government, he was not a uniformed officer nor did he have any official role when he was killed, said Mrs. Pearlman.
With the help of former Congressman Anthony Wiener, Mrs. Pearlman was able to appeal the decision twice, but both were rejected. Her unending promise is to continue looking for help so her son can become eligible for the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program.
“And now they turn their back on me,” she said. “I’ve written to every government official in New York, I’ve got zero responses.”
Others also sympathize with her cause.
“It mattered that they put out the call for people with [medical] training and he answered out of the goodness of his heart,” Schneider said.
“I said it before and I’ll say it again: that kid was my hero for what he did down there, ” said Exler.
Photos courtesy of Ron Cohen from FHVAC.
Photo 3: Dorie Pearlman and husband Barry Pearlman digging the ground before placing the permanent stone memorial dedicated to their son.