The Long Island Expressway overpass on North Ocean Avenue is officially named the Richard Nappi Memorial Bridge after a dedication ceremony and unveiling took place at the Farmingville Fire Department on Saturday.
Nappi, a Farmingville Fire volunteer and FDNY Lieutenant, died of a heart attack in the line of duty last April while leading a group of men into a blaze in Brooklyn.
The bill, which had to pass in both the state Senate and Assembly, to rename the bridge was sponsored by State Sen. Lee Zeldin and State Assemb. Dean Murray, both of whom were at the ceremony to speak. Nappi's surviving brother, Bob, also delivered a heartfelt tribute during the ceremony, which closed with an unveiling of the new "Richard Nappi Memorial Bridge" sign.
Below are the remarks from Saturday's speakers:
State Sen. Lee Zeldin
"Maryanne, Catherine, Nicholas, the entire Nappi family. We know the Nappi family is extended throughout all the rows that are here, and we all look at Lieutenant Nappi as a hero. Even though he has fallen, his legacy of sacrifice and courage will never be forgotten. It is a testament of a legacy he left behind that whenever we're driving on North Ocean Avenue or the Long Island Expressway, whether you knew Lieutenant Nappi or not, you'll think of him and his life and with all of you who are here in uniform, those that continue to serve and protect and defend our families.
Lieutenant Nappi dedicated his life to firefighting. He served his community with bravery and honor duing his tenure with the FDNY, and as a volunteer with the Farmingville Fire Department. This story is truly an amazing one. As fire blazed around them Lieutenant Nappi's heroic actions saved the lives of his fellow firefighters as he pulled them to safety in the thick of the 1995 Long Island wildfires. Perhaps one of the most inspiring stories I ever heard about Lieutenant Nappi was that on September 11, 2001, upon hearing the news of the attacks, he raced to Lower Manhattan on his day off and placed himself in harm's way. He saved whatever lives he could. I was extremely proud to partner with Assemblyman Murray to get the bridge renamed after Lieutenant Nappi. Governor Cuomo signed this legislation into law on July 20.
I've heard a lot of personal stories today, of the way that Lieutenant Nappi touched their lives, touched your lives. For those of you here who maybe didn't know Lieutenant Nappi too well, maybe in the years and decades ahead, you'll learn about his life and his legacy. There's now a permanent reminder in the dedication of this North Ocean Avenue bridge, a fitting tribute to a hero. Someone who I know all of you have the deepest respect for; I do as well. Maryanne, Catherine and Nicholas, the entire Nappi family, whatever you need, Assemblyman Murray and I are here to help and from what we saw in Albany, the entire state is behind you and your family. Thank you and God bless."
State Assemb. Dean Murray:
"Richard's past and history of incredible dedication to the community to his family, to his fellow firefighters...he truly is a hero. You know, I was going to read the speech that I gave when we introduced the bill on the Assembly floor, but I don't want to give a speech like that. I'd rather talk about the fact that in this day and age where we have our young kids and they're looking up to these athletes and these rock stars and movie stars as heroes. What they miss is we got a room full of heroes right here. We have people that step up every day and don't ask for anything in return. They don't ask for glory, they don't ask for money, they just want to do the right thing, and that was Rich Nappi.
I didn't know him personally but over the past six months or so I've heard so many stories and I was hard-pressed to find somebody that didn't have something wonderful to say about Rich. You head the stories from Senator Zeldin, the 95 wildfires...he truly is a hero. He's off that day on September 11, he turns around and goes in to help out. You don't find that every day.
So when we decided to dedicate the bridge, the reason we decided to do that is that we want, not only the kids today, not only the neighborhood and community today, to recognize Rich for who he was, but we want in the future. We want it to be there, so that generations down the road they point to the sign and say 'Mommy, Daddy, who was Richard Nappi?' And they can tell the story of this hero. It's absolutely a privilege for me to even be able to introduce this legislation and to work with Senator Zeldin to get this passed, and to bestow this honor, so I want to say 'thank you' to the Nappi family. Thank you so much for allowing us to be here, and to honor Richard. Thank you and God bless."
"The Nappi family would like to thank Senator Zeldin and Assemblyman Murray for creating this bill and honoring Rich by renaming the North Ocean Avenue Bridge at Exit 63 of the Long Island Expressway in his name. Thank you.
My brother had a quote that he carried with him, from Chief Edward Coker of the FDNY. 'I have no ambition in this world, but one. And that is to be a firefighter. The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lonely one. But we who know the work which the fireman has to do, believe that his is a noble calling.'
My brother kept this quote on a medallion in his car. Not many of us can say that we love our jobs, but Rich loved his job as a fireman. He was Lieutenant in the fire department, he volunteered in Farmingville, and he taught firefighting at the Suffolk County Fire Academy. He was an active member of the Fraternal Order of the Leatherhead Society, more commonly known as 'The Fools.' For those of you who don't know, Leatherhead is the term used for a firefighter who the leather helmet for protection. The Fools is an organization with a passion not only for the comeraderie and brotherhood between firefighters, but the rich tradition and heritage of the fire service.
Yet with all of this hard work and dedication, Rich's family always came first. He rarely missed one of Catherine's softball or basketball games, or Nicholas' baseball and basketball games.
Rich wasn't the type of person that accepted accolades. He did what he loved, and generally shunned away from awards and honors. Our family is very proud that the Assemblyman and Senator chose to honor Rich in this way. Thank you."
Browse the photo gallery for images of the unveiling.