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Tribute to Heroes Parade to honor former NYC firefighter

Steve Lubrino, who served at the World Trade Center, will be grand marshal of Lakewood Ranch's Memorial Day parade.

Former New York City Firefighter Steve Lubrino, who lives in Lakewood Ranch, will be one of the speakers at 9/11 Day of Remembrance at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch.
Former New York City Firefighter Steve Lubrino, who lives in Lakewood Ranch, will be one of the speakers at 9/11 Day of Remembrance at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch.
Photo by Jay Heater
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Approaching Memorial Day each year, Lakewood Ranch High Swim Coach Steve Lubrino tells his swimmers they need to do "The Murph."

Those new to the program just stare back at him.

"The Murph" is a CrossFit exercise that combines running a mile, doing 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and then running another mile. Those serious about it wear a 20-pound vest.

Lubrino alters the exercises a bit to fit his swimmers.

It's an endurance test that was put together to honor the late Lt. Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL who died serving in Afghanistan in 2005. It has come to be an exercise regimen on Memorial Day that honors all fallen U.S. soldiers.

It was started by Dr. Joshua Appel, the Air Force para-rescue soldier whose team rescued Marcus Luttrell, a member of Murphy's team, along with recovering the bodies of Murphy and fellow soldier Danny Dietz.

Eventually, "The Murph" became a fundraiser for the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation. Those who do it are asked to make a donation to the foundation.

When Lubrino is asked about "The Murph," by his swimmers, he tells them to go research it. Inevitably, they do.

It's the education aspect that Lubrino loves, and a good example of why he said "yes," when asked to be the 2024 Tribute to Heroes Parade grand marshal.

As Lubrino travels on a float through Main Street at Lakewood Ranch on May 26, he will be looking into the eyes of many children lining the parade route. His hope is that at least some of those children will ask their parents "Who are these guys being honored in the parade, and what it all is about?"

"I am very big on keeping the history alive," Lubrino said. "Even if a little kid asks Mommy and Daddy, 'Why are we here?' That's great. Then they can explain it."

The Tribute to Heroes Parade not only honors those who have died in service to their country, but those veterans and active soldiers and first responders who have served or are currently serving their country.

Lubrino fits both in the veteran and first responder categories.

Steve Lubrino was the guest speaker at the Day of Remembrance at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch in 2021 to honor those who died on 9/11.
Photo by Jay Heater

He served in the Air Force from 1986-89 as a security policeman and a para-rescue soldier. He wasn't deployed, and his more dangerous service came later, as a firefighter in New York City.

He served with Ladder 102 from 1996 through 2005 in Bedford-Stuyvesant and as an officer for Ladder 162 in Queens from 2005 through 2014, when he was forced into retirement and placed into the World Trade Center Health Program. He only has about 65% percent functioning lung capacity and doctors have said it was caused by working on 9-11. He has had surgery without much benefit.

While Lubrino's World Trade Center service was harrowing — he had just gotten out of the North Tower when it collapsed, the force blowing him through a Burger King window — it wasn't the only dangerous moment during his career as a firefighter.

He remembered being called to one of his first fires in Bedford–Stuyvesant of Brooklyn, New York. He entered the two-story brownstone and was on the second floor when a fellow firefighter, Ray Pollard, yelled at him to "get down!"

"I didn't know what was going on, so I laid down on the floor and this huge fireball blew over me and out the window. It was some type of propane thing."

Pollard had heard the fireball coming, or Lubrino would have been toast.

"Firemen are funny," Lubrino said. "They make jokes about everything. But that was one of my first true scary moments."

Steve Lubrino, shown here on the Day of Remembrance in 2021 at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch, says it's important to tell the stories of veterans and first responders.
Photo by Jay Heater

Lubrino said most firefighters are well trained and take such experiences in stride. Even after the horrific World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001, he never considered leaving the fire department.

In a Sept. 9, 2021, article in the East County Observer, Lubrino talked about the haunting sound of bodies hitting the ground as people were jumping from enormous heights to escape the fire. More than 2,600 people died in the attack and in its aftermath at the World Trade Center.

"A couple of our guys did get hit and killed (by falling bodies)," Lubrino said in the 2021 article.

Three-hundred-and-forty firefighters and 72 policemen died on 9-11.

Lubrino lost two of his best friends in Engine 230's Mike Carlo and Gene Whelan, who died in the collapse of the South Tower.

He noted in the earlier article, "I feel the younger generations should know what this country, my friends, my brothers, went through," he said. "It is a tough thing to talk about. But it's history and we should get the different stories."

Now 57, Lubrino said he was surprised to be the parade's grand marshal. However, he is glad the parade honors both the military and first responders.

"I look at first responders and military in the same window," he said. "I look at firemen as being a paramilitary organization."

He said he is glad many businesses still take time to honor first responders on Sept. 11 and to post photos and memorabilia of solders and first responders on their walls.

He said he does feel lucky to have survived through his experiences.

"There are lots of fires and things happen," he said. "You are not sure how it will go. Sometimes the roof doesn't give out. For other people on the same roof, it gives out. Sometimes it is just luck. My sister says you have to be a certain kind of crazy."

He said his wife, Michelle, has given him unwavering support through it all. They have two kids, a son in 31-year-old Brandon, and a daughter Jenna, who graduated last week from Lakewood Ranch High.

Lubrino said he is sure there are more deserving first responders and veterans in Lakewood Ranch who could be a grand marshal.

'My wife always says I'm humble, but I always wonder, 'Why me?'" 

"But for me, it's all about the stories. I've always been about the kids. Kids used to come to the firehouse, 'Can you fix my bike?' 'Is Mr. Steve here today?' I've always been about the kids.

"I want them to know, not only about what the New York City Fire Department did, but what everyone did. This country was one big country (in the aftermath of 9/11). You couldn't buy a flag anywhere."



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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