Battalion Chief Orio Palmer; husband, son, brother, father.
16 years, and 2,977 lives later, those of us old enough to remember that day, will never forget what we were doing when we first heard or saw what was happening.
I was working at an ad agency (where two colleagues lost their father and spouse) when the first plane crashed. We ran to the conference room to watch the unfolding tragedy. At that point, so early in the moments of what was happening, we were kind of, in a typical New York fashion, very blasé about it but not to a point where we didn’t care. We realized something big had happened and that there were obvious casualties but the magnitude of it all hadn’t really sunk in. Then the second plane hit right before our very eyes and that was when the tears began to flow. One my co-workers had just arrived at the office and had briefly overheard what happened but this being the age before smartphones wasn’t too sure what was going on until she came into the conference room and saw what was transpiring.
She ran out of the room saying, “Oh my God, my father, my father’s down there!” This was a scene repeated throughout the city and the areas hit thousands of times over.
Out of of the 2,977 people we lost on that day, The Bronx lost 156. One of them being Battalion Chief Orio Palmer, born in the South Bronx and as a small child moved to the Northwest Bronx.
Palmer, a graduate of Cardinal Spellman High School, was one of only two first responders to reach the 78th floor of the South Tower where the plane had crashed. According to accounts, Palmer fixed an elevator and was able to take it up straight to the 41st floor and from there he ran up to the 78th floor. For many, this may have seemed extreme but for Orio Palmer, this type of vigorous activity was what he trained for. This was a man who had finished the New York City marathons and many other intensive athletic activities and received accolades from the FDNY for physical fitness.
It took a lawsuit by The New York Times to make the tapes of the broadcasts from first responders public for the family of Battalion Chief Orio Palmer to learn about his heroic bravery. For 5 years, the family never knew how far he had actually made it. That he was one of only 2 first responders to make it so far up the doomed towers.
In the years that followed the tragic events of 9/11, Palmer’s mother Agnes began to deal with the pain and suffering of the loss of her son by visiting the Cara Art Studio in Woodlawn where she began to learn how to draw. According to her, before she went into the center she couldn’t even draw a pear. As she learned how to draw and noticeably improved, she decided to draw her son from a picture she had. The result was so much to her liking that she eventually embarked on drawing portraits of the fallen members of the FDNY.
As a result of this journey of healing through art by Mrs Agnes Palmer, the Orio J. Palmer Foundation was set up at the Cara Art Studio to provide assistance to local children who want to attend classes at the studio. Through this foundation, he will never be forgotten and a new generation of children can not only learn about art but they can remember a real American hero who was from The Bronx.
Please also check out Keith Palmer’s fundraiser for his father, Orio Palmer Tunnel To Towers Team.
To read more about Chief Orio Palmer check out these links:
- Orio Joseph Palmer – Introduction to a Hero (June 20, 2013)
- Orio Palmer’s accidental memorial.
- Lost Voices of Firefighters, Some on the 78th Floor
- Long Island Remembers: Orio Joseph Palmer