The death of Dyker Heights firefighter Joseph Graffagnino in Saturday’s massive Deutsche Bank blaze horrified an entire city, and also turned a typically raucous Third Avenue bar into an impromptu memorial this week.
Graffagnino, 33, died alongside Robert Beddia, 53, in the fire at the crippled financial building near Ground Zero,which has been empty since the 9-11 attacks and was being taken down piece by piece to minimize the spread of toxins.
Graffagnino, who lived in Dyker Heights, had been tending bar at the Salty Dog just hours earlier.
This week, the memories flowed.
“Joe spread so much joy to everyone he met,” said friend and co-worker Bekim Leka. “The guy always had this smile on his face and it became contagious.”
The bar, which caters to firefighters, hung black-and-purple memorial bunting in honor of Graffagnino, and flowers started gathering at the ad-hoc memorial.
“Everyone just seemed to start gravitating here,” said Leka. “We have had other firefighters and friends coming in and out.”
Copies of the daily papers, with covers featuring pictures of “Joey Bots,” were scattered over the bar. The replica fire truck, usually filled with children at play, now served as a haunting reminder to the perils of the job.
“Joe was seriously the nicest guy you could meet,” said a friend, John Malloy. “I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true, I honestly don’t think I ever knew a nicer guy.”
Graffagnino was an eight-year veteran who leaves behind his wife, Linda, a nurse he married in 2002. He worked out of Ladder Company 5 in Greenwich Village.
Monday would have been his 34th birthday. Instead, his funeral was Thursday at St. Ephrem’s Church on Bay Ridge Parkway.