Why is he worth More Dead than Alive!?

August 14, 2002
My husband, New York City Firefighter Kenneth J. Marino of Rescue 1, was killed on September 11th fighting a fire for his country.

As Kenny 's widow, I now I struggle with the fact that I receive his pension, free of taxes and work-related deductions, at an amount double what Kenny brought home while he was alive, risking his life every day at work.  While I realize this money is to ensure that I, as a single parent, can adequately raise my children, I have a hard time with this.  Kenny should have been able to have his rightful pay while he was living. 

While Kenny was alive we struggled on his firefighter 's  pay.  After more than 10 years on the job,  Kenny earned $64,000 a year, but barely took home $1,100 every other week after deductions of Union dues, social security, city, state and federal taxes.  Our monthly mortgage payment alone is $1150 for a small two-bedroom house 90 minutes outside of the city.  A home any closer  was not affordable.  Add car payments, insurance, fuel, utilities, clothing and groceries and the second paycheck of the month was wiped clear.

So in addition to working as a New York City firefighter, Kenny also juggled two or three side jobs at any given time to support us and our two young children Kristin, 4 and Tyler, 2.  This allowed me to stay home and raise our children as Kenny wished.   He should have been able to enjoy his life and his family a little more instead of also having to moonlight as a DJ, bus driver and construction worker to make ends meet.

Firefighters love their jobs and they risk their lives daily so others might live.  Why can 't we show them the respect they deserve and give them what is rightfully theirs while they are alive?   New York City firefighters face a multitude of dangers unique to urban firefighting (terrorist attacks being among these risks even before September 11th).

I know New York City, and our region, is in tough economic times right now. But I am asking that the people of this great city and state, which my husband loved and where he lived his entire life, help in an effort to let firefighters (not to exclude New York ' s "finest" who also risk their lives to serve the public) enjoy the full benefit of their pay while they are alive, working and risking their lives daily to save others.  I am hoping not only for a raise in pay for these brave men and women, but I am also suggesting the enactment of legislation to make the low pay for firefighters free of city and state taxes (similar to how members of the U.S. armed forces are exempt from federal taxes while in a war zone, when their risks are the greatest).  While it can be strongly argued that the U.S.,  particularly New
York City, is in a war zone right now, the risk of injury and death is always high for a firefighter.  Fire is always a war zone.

I am not a union or a corporation or a politician.  I have no direct power to make changes in these men ' s lives, but I do know how they struggle daily with the loss of their brothers while dealing with the realization of how much tragedy, loss and risk they are carrying with them every time they go to work.  Knowing that at any time they might not return to the wife and children they love.  How by one act of carelessness, arson or terrorism, their entire world can crumble.  Granted, they knew this when they pursued and accepted their jobs as firefighters, yet, it takes a special person to know the risks and still accept such a job.

New York needs to show these rescuers a little more respect and give them more of their rightful pay for saving you and me from fire, flame and building collapse with no regard for their own lives or safety.

This is a serious issue, one that seems to be continuously overlooked.   We need to make others aware and rally somehow for these men, that they should not have died in vain.  I am not quite sure how to go about this, but I am sure with the help of the New Yorkers Kenny loved, we can find a way.  I am not a politician and I have not followed all the politics regarding the pay issues, but I know what I feel, and this is not right.

Though Kenny is still providing for his family, the money that is keeping us clothed, fed, housed and comfortable is sad money.  We would have been better served if this money came when Kenny was alive and able to enjoy a more fulfilling life with his family.   My children and I miss, want and need Kenny back.   No amount of money will compensate for the fact that Kenny was killed in the line of duty at the age of 40, robbing him of his life and leaving his children without him. Kristin and Tyler were his pride and joy, and what he lived and died for. 

Why are these men worth so much more dead than alive? 

Katrina Marino
In-the-Line of Duty Widow
Firefighter Kenneth J. Marino