Firefighters from across the country get lifesaving training on Long Island in memory of FF Joey DiBernardo

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YAPHANK, N.Y. – Hundreds of firefighters from across the nation are receiving lifesaving training in Suffolk County through the weekend thanks to a foundation that honors an FDNY hero. 

That hero gave his life to save another firefighter on what’s infamously known as “Black Sunday.” That tragic day in 2005 spawned the annual effort to make firefighters safer.

“That piece of rope and Joey DiBernardo saved my life that day,” said retired FDNY firefighter Jeff Cool. 

Cool survived a dark day in FDNY history – Black Sunday – Jan. 23, 2005. 

“I never want to see another firefighter jump out a window,” Cool said. 

He and five other firefighters jumped from an illegally subdivided Bronx apartment fire because they didn’t have the bailout gear, only one rope. 

“I had the rope, but I had nowhere to anchor to, and Joey became my anchor. He placed my life before his own that day,” Cool said. 

Two firefighters died in that fire. Lt. Joey DiBernardo died of catastrophic injuries years later. 

The tragedy then launched something positive — training firefighters across the nation, descending on Yaphank, Long Island, for the Joseph DiBernardo Foundation’s annual training seminar. 

“We have basement fires, to hose stretching, to laddering operations … search. It’s a multitude of things that we can give to them that they can’t get in their hometowns,” said Kevin Yoos, vice president of the foundation. 

Firefighters come to a Mecca of training by the nation’s best fire departments, instructors all donating their time. 

“You can’t go to some our own cities and states and flip a school bus onto a car, or have so many of these burned buildings,” said Josh Rocha, a firefighter from Portsmouth, Rhode Island. 

“These students now go home to their department and they train their departments. So it’s exponential. He goes on saving lives,” said Chief Joe DiBernardo, the fallen hero’s father. 

DiBernardo’s father is proud of the nearly $1 million in personal safety equipment the foundation has donated to departments that can’t afford them. 

“We are always about saving people. We got to think about saving ourselves too. That’s what this training is all about,” he said. 

“It’s like a bulletproof vest to a police officer,” Cool said. “It’s either stay there and burn to death or jump and hope for the best – and that what these bailout systems are.” 

DiBernardo was known as an encyclopedia of fire knowledge, always elevating safety. He lost his life in the end, giving Jeff Cool first access to the only rope. 

Cool is grateful his Black Sunday legacy now ensures hundreds of other firefighters are properly trained and equipped. 

“But I wish he was still here today, I miss him,” Cool said. 

Joey DiBernardo was also a volunteer fire captain in his hometown of Setauket, Long Island.