A grieving father continues to wield his pen in his efforts to find the truth behind the devastating Deutsche Bank fire that killed his firefighter son almost a decade earlier.
Author J.A. Graffagnino lost his son, firefighter and former Dyker Heights resident Joey, who was killed at the age of 33 when he responded to a fire inside Manhattan’s Deutsche Bank building, 130 Liberty Center, on August 18, 2007. The younger Graffagnino died inside the building which had been badly damaged after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 that destroyed World Trade Center One and Two. At the time, the Deutsche building sustained a 24-story gash.
“This building was abandoned, filled with toxins, asbestos, mold and everything else from the attacks,” said Graffagnino. “Part of the World Trade Center crashed into the Deutsche Bank building and created a huge multi-floor crevice on the side of the building and in that crevice, they found the body of a flight attendant from one of the airplanes that hit the Trade Center.”
Abandoned after 9/11, the building was eventually purchased from Deutsche Bank by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation around 2004, and it began to demolish the building. Then, the fire broke out. Graffagnino’s company responded to the blaze and he and one other firefighter died after going into cardiac arrest, and 105 others were injured.
Not surprisingly, the conflagration and its results haunted the elder Graffagnino. So he decided to write the self-published book The Fix is In, which, he explained, questions and provides extensive evidence as to what might have caused the deadly fire.
“There was no supervision,” he said. “No one called the Fire Department with the multitude of fires that were out there. The Department of Buildings turned a blind eye as did other safety people.”
In the 317-page read, Graffagnino documents the history of the building from the time it was purchased by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and offers plenty of photos and charts, as well as interviews with eyewitnesses, firefighters and others in an attempt to prove that the seven-alarm Deutsche Bank building fire was not simply an unfortunate accident.
Along with documenting the results of his extensive investigation, Graffagnino added a very personal touch to the book. “There’s stuff about my family, my grandchildren in the book,” he said. (My son) had two children and a wife when he passed. There’s a touching and heartbreaking part about my granddaughter in it. So I kind of interweave the story with personal things as well as all the investigation and information.”
He also discusses the bravery of his son. “He went into the building doing his job,” Graffagnino said. “He was trying to protect the other firefighters and anyone else that was still in the building, trying to get water into the building. And building engineers kept telling the battalion chiefs out there water was coming in here and they were going to activate the internal pumps. In reality, they did absolutely nothing.
“It took them an hour to get water into building because all of the fire hydrants and connections were covered up in plywood,” he added. “One fire hydrant was removed from the street.”
Among the things that trouble Graffagnino is the way the city’s Department of Buildings classified the work that was going on at the site prior to the fire. “The Department of Buildings listed it an alteration instead of a demolition,” claimed the author, adding that he believes that several factors may have led to the massive fire. “One of the things no one knew at the time was that the fans required by the United States Environmental Protection Agency to keep toxins inside the building were deliberately put in the wrong location, on the north side of the building and floors 13-17. According to contractors, they should not have been lower than the 21st floor. Why were fans on lower floors?”
Graffagnino also questions why contractors took out walls in the stairwells. “If there’s a building fire, you go to the stairwell for safety,” he explained “That’s fireproof. They took the walls out of these fireproof stairwells so the smoke and fire traveled into areas the Fire Department would normally go to for safety.”
While he sought answers, writing the book actually raised additional questions for Graffagnino. “It took me eight years to put this together. If I could find this stuff out as an average person, are you telling me professional investigators and prosecutors couldn’t find this out?”
To purchase The Fix is In, visit www.jagraffagnino.com.