Fire Lt. Charles Margiotta memorialized

We said goodbye to one more from the neighborhood yesterday. It has become an almost daily ritual on Staten Island. The streets are closed, the flags hang high from the ladders of firetrucks. The sky is bright blue, the helicopters circle above. White gloves salute in rows, standing guard for a bouquet of beautiful red, green and pink flowers. The church doors open, the silence broken only by the bagpipes.

Charles Margiotta a city firefighter, was memorialized in his home community. Mr. Margiotta, 44, a lieutenant with the 22nd Battalion, was honored at St. Rita's R.C. Church in Meiers Corners. He is among the missing from the World Trade Center attack.

If you didn't know Mr. Margiotta before yesterday, weren't aware of his infectious, outrageous and courageous ways, all you had to do was sit through his stirring memorial mass. One after another, his friends and family members stood in the packed church to praise a man who was his daughter's role model. The letter from President Bush read at each mass for a fallen firefighter seemed especially poignant at this one, where Mr. Margiotta's family was told "all of America mourns with you."

Mr. Margiotta was an active member of the parish that came out to praise him. He ran the school's athletic program and Sunday nights, when most parents had gone home, Mr. Margiotta and his wife, Norma, would be in the
school's gym, mopping the floors. He was, as the Rev. John F. Reardon said, "a unique character." So one of a
kind, in fact, that three people are handling his job at the school these days.

As the ceremony continued, and more people stepped to the lectern, it became increasingly clear that Mr. Margiotta was not one of those faces in the crowd. He was the kind of guy who led many different lives, tried many
different things, and touched many people. "He was my brother," Michael Margiotta would say, pausing to catch his breath. "I can say that with enough conviction to make anyone jealous." But, Michael Margiotta would insist, there were other brothers.

There was the crew from Monsignor Farrell High School and the Lions' football team of the early 1970s. The guys from Brown University, where Mr. Margiotta played football and would graduate with a double major in English
and sociology. And the guys in the blue suits, the ones who wear heavy black jackets and run into burning towers.
"You are all brothers," Michael Margiotta said.

Each came with a different story. There was the one about Mr. Margiotta jumping off the roof of the house every Fourth of July, landing in the swimming pool. He was the guy who plowed all the driveways and sidewalks
when the snow fell on Meiers Corners, and the friend always willing to wake up early to give someone a lift to the mechanic. "Everything seemed more alive when Chuck was doing his thing," his brother said. He made the old feel young, the young feel old and was the defender of the underdog.

"It took a very big building to end a very big life," said Firefighter Tom DelPino from Ladder Co. 85 in New Dorp. "He did everything big. He'd be disappointed he couldn't save everyone in that building." "He was my role model, my dad and most of all, my hero," said his daughter, Norma Jean.

 Staten Island Advance