They were small gestures from Dolphins coach Brian Flores, donning a T-shirt, giving some sideline passes. And they had nothing to do with the final score at Meadowlands, so they could be sidelined on Sunday.
But they resonated with firefighters at Stairway 118 at 74 Midagh St. in Brooklyn, 13 miles away. It was a quiet Sunday, and if there’s one place that appreciates calm, it’s Stairway 118’s firefighters.
“We got to see a few games, and everyone loves it,” first responder Bob Moran was saying from there late Sunday afternoon.
The Dolphins beat the New York Jets 24–17, and that reaction was divided by Ladder 118 firefighters. Some were Jet fans.
“Some of us are Giants fans,” Moran said.
Two in the game, Bobby O’Rourke and Jim McElvey, were Dolphins fans. They stood on the sidelines before the game, talking a minute with Flores—”best man,” said O’Rourke—as the games intersect with the larger world and Flores’ gestures against his remarkable backstory. Brushed.
The initial responders at the World Trade Center were six firefighters from Ladder 118 after the planes collided on 9/11. None of them made it out. Eight firefighters from Ladder 18 died that day.
Flores’ uncle, Darrell Patterson, may have been one of them, except that he was then on medical leave with cancer. Uncle Darrell spent time with his nephew, who grew up in Glenmore Plaza’s Rough Projects.
They would go bowling, in arcades or sometimes just to see firefighters on stair 118. Once, while driving around, Flores, then eight or nine, saw a youth football practice. He asked if he could play.
Patterson was soon driving his nephew from Brooklyn to Queens for practice. It was in the Linwet youth program. Here you start connecting some crazy points with the flores ending at the dolphin edge.
Frank Masella ran that youth program. After a few years of observing the kid and weighing his talents, Masella called on Dino Mangiero, coach of an exclusive private high school, Poly Prep.
Manguero was the gatekeeper to the Jordan Scholars, a group of students who received financial aid from billionaire Jay Jordan to attend Poly Prep at the time. This led to Flores being there, which led him to meet a Boston College recruiter named Al Golden.
Uncle Darrell will tell Polly Prep of his nephew, then firefighters who play for Boston College.
“I look back now and he was talking about Brian Flores,” said O’Rourke, 52.
Even when Patterson retired, he kept in touch with Ladder 118. They spoke a few months ago on the 20th anniversary of September 11th and the possibility of tickets for a Dolphin-Jets game came up.
“They said, ‘If you guys ever want to go to a game, we’ll take you in,'” O’Rourke said. “I never thought it would lead to anything, but then Darrell approached us in game form. Went close.”
For O’Rourke and McElwee, lifelong fans of the Dolphins, it was something special. His sons went. They were standing on the sidelines before the game when Flores walked up to them.
“Super man, very down to earth,” O’Rourke said.
The Stair 118 firefighters have also been with Flores through his uncle. He thinks about each anniversary of the Twin Towers attack. He brought them a little closer on Sunday, even putting on his T-shirt for the post-game news conference.
After talking about the Dolphins’ third-straight win, Tua Tagovailoa’s performance and other topics from Sunday’s game, Flores was asked about the T-shirt. He talked for a moment about his uncle’s influence and the importance of ladder 118.
“He gave me this shirt and I thought it would be a good time to wear it,” he said.
It was not about putting things in perspective. One doesn’t need to see tragedy to put the Games in perspective. It was simply a good time for some nice gestures—wearing a T-shirt, giving out some tickets—that spoke of a bigger world.