Bronx News
Feb 13, 2018

BRONX NEWS: Soldier who died in Bronx fire to be honored at State of the City

The hero soldier who perished saving others from a deadly Bronx blaze in December will be honored at Mayor de Blasio’s State of the City speech Tuesday.

Pfc. Emmanuel Mensah died after saving four people from the burning Bronx building before succumbing to the fast-moving fire, which killed 12 others.

“I think he deserves to be honored by the mayor and it’s an honor to see my son being honored in such a way after all of this tragedy,” Mensah’s dad, Kwabena Mensah, told the Daily News in a phone interview.

Mensah was a legal permanent resident who had immigrated to the United States from the African nation of Ghana. He enlisted in the National Guard in 2016, and was home in the Bronx for the holidays when the horrific fire tore through the apartment building where he was staying.

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His story took on particular poignancy when, just a few weeks after his death, reports emerged that President Trump had called African nations “shitholes” and said the country should not accept so many immigrants from there. The comments were blasted by New York politicians, many of whom cited Mensah’s story.

Kwabena Mensah said he wanted people to remember his son as somebody who came from Africa.

“Africans are not from shitholes as the President said. They have to remember him as a good person, as a kind person,” he said. “He should be remembered as a very kind and generous person.”

Mensah has been showered with posthumous honors, including the Soldier’s Medal, which is the Army’s highest honor for peacetime bravery. He will also have a street named in his memory.

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“That tells me how New York City and the Americans have appreciated my son’s effort and the heroic acts that he did,” the elder Mensah said. “When I cry, sometimes I stop crying and think about that, too.”

The last several weeks have been difficult for the elder Mensah, who has not been able to return to work driving a cab. The city has helped him with rental vouchers and helped him obtain visas for family members from Ghana to come to the United States for his son’s funeral. But promised financial assistance from other donors has yet to arrive, he said.

His mother also passed away in Ghana about a week after his son’s death, he said. Sometimes, as he walks down the street alone, he is surprised to find himself crying.

“It has been very tough for me, but I know God is in control,” he said. “Sometimes when you cry, you have to stop and do the right thing.”

Army honoring soldier who died saving lives in Bronx fire

In addition to Mensah, the event will honor about 50 city workers who were nominated by their agencies as heroes and will attend the speech as guests of the mayor.

They include Joseph J. Caggiano, a Sanitation worker from Staten Island who, at 75, is the oldest active uniformed employee in the city — and has worked for the agency for 52 years.

Another Sanitation worker, Ralph R. Alonso of the Bronx who served in the Marines, will be honored for tackling and holding the man suspected of running down FDNY EMT Yadira Arroyo last year.

Two EMTs, Anthony Fracchiolla and Jin Huan Yang, will be honored for their quick response to the terrorist attack on a bike path along the West Side Highway, where they assisted wounded school children. Luz Carrion-Diaz, a Parks Enforcement Patrol captain and commanding officer of the Hudson River Park unit, will also be honored for his role in responding to the attack.

Schumer wants Army to honor heroic soldier killed in Bronx fire

Two Dreamers — people who came to the country undocumented as children — who work for the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs will also be honored.

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Soldier who died in Bronx fire to be honored at State of the City

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