Chuck's Friends Ready To Ride

Chuck's Friends Ready To Ride

 A tribute to Sept. 11 hero Chuck Margiotta is scheduled for Sunday, June 7 at Monsignor Farrell High Scjool.It's been seven years, going on eight, since Chuck Margiotta, on his way home after working a 24-hour tour for another fireman, heard the reports of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center, got off the Staten Island Expressway at the next exit, and climbed aboard a truck with the firemen from Rescue 5, on their way to immortality. But the stories about the larger-than-life fire lieutenant keep on coming.

Which reminds me. Have you heard the one about the night the rookies had just finished cooking pasta and meatballs, and everybody in the firehouse was sitting down to dinner when the lieutenant asked if somebody could pass the grated cheese?

A few awkward moments passed.

The rookies looked at each other.

"No cheese?" the lieutenant asked, as serious as a second alarm.

"Nobody eats until we have cheese."

So, they got on the rig and made a run to the supermarket down the street, and came back with grated cheese.

"Now we can eat," Margiotta said, satisfied that the menu was complete.

Down at Monsignor Farrell, where he played high school football, they're gearing up for a memorial motorcycle run in Margiotta's name, and some folks might wonder why it took so long.

But in the crush of tributes that followed the outpouring of grief in the old neighborhood after Sept. 11 -- when there weren't enough bagpipers to play at all the firemen's funerals -- nothing seemed to fit.

"People talked about having a dinner or a banquet, but that wasn't him," Mike Margiotta, the dead fireman's brother, is saying in the run-up to the Lt. Chuck Margiotta Brains, Brawn and Bravery Memorial Motorcycle Run on June 7.

"The last thing that was going to happen was a lot of people getting in suits and ties for Chuck. He was more rough and tumble."


His affinity for motorcycles like the Honda 750 Four, a big bike that looked a little smaller with Margiotta on the back, was just part of his fill-it-up lifestyle; one more contradiction in the life of an Ivy League graduate who couldn't wait to go home and be a New York City fireman -- a tattooed, mustachioed movie stunt man who tended the tomato plants in the garden alongside the firehouse -- a tough guy who ran into the street in his pajamas to help an elderly neighbor, and gave mouth-to-beak resuscitation to a baby bird that fell from a tree.

In some neighborhoods, the sound of a motorcycle can inspire annoyance, even dread. But to the neighbors on Ingram Avenue in Meiers Corners, where Margiotta lived for most of his 44 years on the planet and plowed the neighbors' sidewalks when it snowed, the purr of the bike was a reminder that the block was in good hands.

Proceeds from the Brains, Brawn and Bravery Motorcycle Run will go toward a scholarship fund at Farrell, to go with the one already established in his name at Brown, where Margiotta was an part of the school's first Ivy League championship team in 1976.

The riders will make a police-escorted circuit beginning and ending at Farrell, with stops at Angels Circle, the traffic-circle shrine to the heroes of Sept. 11; the Staten Island Boys Football League and Mid-Island Little League in Travis, where Margiotta played football and baseball; and the street where he lived, which has been renamed Chuck Margiotta Way.

They won't have to stop at the firehouse down the block, where Margiotta tended the vegetable garden. The guys from Ladder 85 will be working the grills and refreshment stands at Farrell.

Meantime, the stories keep coming -- from old friends, teammates, other firemen, people Mike Margiotta never had a serious conversation with until they found out he was Chuck's younger brother.


"No lie. It happens every day," he says. "After the initial shock, it's usually followed by a funny story.

"A lot of times it's an unbelievable story, like they're making it up."

Just the other day, he was riding past Schaffer's Tavern in Meiers Corners, spotted a couple of motorcycles in the parking lot, and saw an opportunity to spread the word about Chuck's run.

When he asked who owned the bikes, he found out one of the guys worked with Chuck, and the other guy played in the touch tackle league run by the dead fireman's father.

Nothing new about that, the younger Margiotta says.

"Staten Island might be more crowded," he says, "but it's just as small as it ever was."


The Lt. Chuck Margiotta Memorial Brains, Brawn & Bravery Motorcycle Run is scheduled for next Sunday, June 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Monsignor Farrell High School, with the actual run beginning at noon. For further information, or to make a donation, riders or non-riders may contact the Chuck Margiotta Scholarship Fund, or Mike Margiotta at
 Jay Price