9/11 Firefighter Swung for the Fences
with Family and Friends
By Joseph Kellard
Weeks after her husband, Ken Marino, was killed in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, Katrina Marino e-mailed his favorite baseball player, Ken Griffey of the Cincinnati Reds, requesting that he hit a home run for her husband that day.
Griffey followed through not only with this request, but also with his promise to meet Katrina and her two children when the Reds visited New York this summer to play the Mets.
"[Griffey] played ball with the children for a while and he talked to me for a while, and he let the kids climb all over him,” Katrina said about their meeting on Shea Stadium's baseball diamond. “He was great.”
This fulfilled promise was one bright spot for Katrina over the past year, a time that for her has felt, she said, "like a lifetime," and for Mary Ann Marino, Ken's mother, "like one long day that really hasn't ended," she said.
An Oceanside native and firefighter with the elite Rescue 1 in New York City, Marino was among the first firefighters at the World Trade Center after 8:45 a.m. on Sept. 11. Before that unthinkable morning, the Marinos, residing in their Monroe, New York home for two years, were awaiting approval of a variance to build a second-floor bedroom for their newborn boy, Tyler. If the variance was approved earlier, Ken would likely have been home on Sept. 11 building the new room.
"He was such a big part of my life and now I don't have him," Katrina lamented.
As a means of coping with her grief, she busied herself by cooking for the volunteer firefighters who did build Tyler's room, and by furnishing and decorating it, all of which took about 4 months.
Marino moved to Long Beach in 1987 and joined the city's fire department, but he always dreamed of becoming a New York City firefighter. That dream was fulfilled three years later, as Marino joined with Rescue 4 in Queens. Standing 6'5", he was known as "Little Ken," and fellow firefighters described him as "a kid at heart." In 1994, he began dating Katrina, a native of Massachusetts, who at the time was a TWA flight attendant living in Long Beach. The couple married three years later, started a family and moved to Monroe.
"If it wasn't for my children, I wouldn't know what to do," Katrina said about her son, now two years old, who responds happily to photos of Ken, and Kristine, 4, who understood early on that her father would never return home again.
In addition to her grandchildren, in whom she sees so much of Ken, Mary Ann said she and her family, daughter Lynda and husband Patrick, have derived a lot of strength from the "tremendous amount of support" from their family, friends and people in their community. "They have seen to it that they were there for us, and at times we didn't realize that we needed them," Mary Ann explained.
While she and Katrina tried counseling, they both found it did little to assist them in their grief. Instead, Katrina talks regularly with another widow whose husband worked and lost his life with Ken. She also consults a woman from Columbia University who conducted a pre-Sept. 11 study of over 200 young families who have lost loved ones.
"I think that to have someone who has numerous experiences with people like me, especially with children, has been very helpful," Katrina said. "She's explained to me the different stages that widows like me go through and she believes I'm right on track."
Mary Ann derives emotional fuel to carry on by remembering Ken's strength of character in hard times and by living out his wishes.
"I know that he would want us to be there for Katrina, and he would definitely want us to be in his children's lives," Mary Ann said. "And keeping that in mind, we know that we somehow have to make a go of this because we would be letting him down if we weren't there for his children."
* This story originally appeared in the Oceanside/Island Park Herald in 2002.