Hero Firefighter Laid To Rest


Maya McFadden PhotoHundreds of firefighters flooded city streets Thursday to honor and march for Firefighter Ricardo Torres, Jr., a hero remembered for his love, unmatched work ethic, and dedication to his loved ones.

Torres was laid to rest Thursday by New Haveners and beyond. A procession from Grand Avenue fire headquarters to to St. Mary’s Church included firefighters from all over the country paying tribute.

Torres died last week during an overnight Valley Street fire, which also critically injured his colleague Lt. Samod Rankins. The line of duty death was the first in years for the NHFD and the first loss Fire Chief John Alston Jr. has had to deal with since becoming chief.

A hundred firefighters suited up in dress uniforms and white gloves at the Grand Avenue Firehouse. Several more hundreds of firefighters joined as the service members marched to the church for a closed ceremony.

Active and retired firefighters marched with light synchronized steps to the beat of drums and bagpipes to St. Mary’s.

As the firefighters marched past restaurants and local shops, community members paused, watched and recorded video of the honorary procession.

The hundreds of firefighters and Torres family members were escorted by the Engine Six fire truck decorated with an honorary ribbon for Torres. who helped to rescue two people from the Valley Street fire.

To allow for the NHFD members to attend the funeral service, out-of-town firefighters agreed to serve shifts in New Haven Thursday.

The NHFD will be getting help from neighboring fire departments while Torres’ fire brothers and sisters grieve two recent losses and pray for the ongoing recovery of Rankins. “They’re coming because they understand that it could be them,” Alston said during a Wednesday press conference previewing Thursday’s funeral. “We still have to manage a city.”

As the bagpipes echoed in the streets Thursday, some firefighters wiped away tears while marching on.

Service of Fallen Firefighter Ricardo Torres, Jr.

Posted by New Haven Independent on Thursday, May 20, 2021

 

The Funeral Procession for Firefighter Torres from Made in New Haven by Steve Hamm on Vimeo.

Widow Recalls Joys Amid Sorrow

Widow Erica Martinez: “I need you”Inside the church, speaker recalled the kind of man Torres was. He joined the NHFD in July 2019 and was assigned to the Engine 6 company.

Former NHFD fire chief and St. Mary Deacon Martin O’Connor led the funeral mass for the family and department members.

Torres’ widow, Erica Martinez, is pregnant with their unborn son Crew Torres and is now raising their 11-month old son Oliver Torres. At the funeral, she said she is working through unbearable emotions of anger, fear, and sadness with support from the NHFD.

“You’re supposed to be here,” she said. “You’re supposed to go to work, do your job, and come home.”

Their son Oliver’s first birthday is next week, she said. She recalled the pair’s excitement and countdown of the days.

Martinez talked to her husband once earlier on the day of the fatal fire, while he was at work, during a brief FaceTime call that included Oliver

During her remarks Thursday, Martinez recalled how she met Torres on an online dating app. She signed up to support her sister, who was starting online dating. Just before Martinez planned to delete the app, she got a message from a “decent looking guy” whose dating profile described him as a “5’9 and a chef” she said.

Their first date happened about six years ago after talking through the app. They went to the movies. Torres was 15 minutes late, had her buy the tickets, and didn’t offer to buy her popcorn, she said.

“I would like to clarify that Ricardo was barley 5’7 and definitely not a chef,” she said.

The two sat in the car after the movie having “effortless” conversation for three hours. Before they both knew it, it was 3 a.m, and they agreed to depart. After a rejected kiss in the car and handshake attempt, Martinez said, they shared a first kiss outside of the car to end their first date. Eleven months later, the two got engaged.

“It is an honor to have met you. To have fallen in the deepest of deep kind love with you. To marry you, and have a family with you. It is a privilege to have been loved by you. To be have been chosen by you and to carry your two sons for you,” Martinez said.

Torres would often remind his wife that she she was strong.

“I don’t feel strong,” she said Thursday.

Martinez aches with thoughts about her husband not being at her bedside when she delivers their second baby. He was there for their first, Oliver. She recalled him brushing her hair in the hospital and taking care of their newborn so she could rest.

Martinez thanked the NHFD for its support over the past week. She said she has formed new relationships with department members like
Assistant Fire Chief Lt. Justin McCarthy.

Engine Six commanding officers Lt. William Riggott and Capt. Kendall Richardson described Torres as a hero and leader since his training academy.

Torres was an “optimal performer” who was a fast past and self motivated firefighter, Riggott said. He earned the nickname “Tornado” while in the academy. Torres was committed to learning how to be the best to serve his community.

Riggott recalled working with Torres on a call during his first two weeks on job. After watching Riggott struggle to work with a woman who only spoke Spanish, Torres stepped in and worked with the resident.

The two made a deal, Riggott recalled. Torres said, “You teach everything you know about the job, and i’ll try to teach you Spanish.”

Richardson, who has been struggling to sleep since Torres’ death, formed a tight bond with Torres as his instructor in academy. His class members stood from their seats at the service as Richardson spoke. Torres pushed fellow members of the academy to their graduation. 

Armand Mendez and Cathy Foster-Mendez at Thursday service.Ricardo’s stepfather, Armand Mendez, stood beside Torres’ mother Cathy Foster-Mendez as they reminisced their hero at home and on duty.

Armand said Torres was energetic since a young age. He recalled precious memories with Torres growing up watching Sunday football. Torres stepped in as a father figure to his younger sister when Armand had to work.

The family was comforted with thoughts that Torres lived his dream as a firefighter, husband, father, brother, and son.

“I keep looking at the door hoping that at any given moment you’d walk right in and say hey like you use to do and give me a big hug and kiss,” Foster-Mendez said.

Torres loved to eat. His mother recalled him often making his first trip when returning home to the kitchen.

Foster-Mendez raised Torres as a single mother. She said she got her strength from his infectious laugh, big heart, and comforting smile.

“The world needed a hero, and God picked you to be that one. I am so proud of you,” Foster-Mendez said.

Mayor Elicker, Fire Commission President Rev. Steven Cousin, and President of Local 825 Patrick Cannon also made remarks at the Thursday service. 

Alston announced that in the fall the NHFD in partnership with the University of New Haven will host a training symposium in honor of Torres on firefighter tactics, mental health, health, safety, and well being of firefighters, and support services for spouses, and partner support.”

“We will never forget him. Ricardo will be amongst us and apart of us forever,” said Alston.

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