Botanical garden tree honors Scout who died at WTC

By Courtney Dentch

When Howard Beach resident Richard Pearlman was born in March 1983, a magnolia tree at the Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing was sprouting some of its first pink blossoms.

Now, nearly two years after the volunteer paramedic and Boy Scout was killed in the World Trade Center attacks, that tree, which will flower each year near his birthday, was dedicated in his memory at a ceremony Sunday.

“We are honored to dedicate a tree to the memory of Richard Pearlman, a brave 18-year-old who gave his life in service to his fellow men and women,” said Frank Mirovsky, chairman of the garden's board of trustees. “It is our fervent hope that Richard's tree in our beautiful and peaceful garden will honor him and provide comfort, solace and hope to his surviving family, friends and community.”

On Sept. 11, 2001, Pearlman, a volunteer medic and dispatcher with the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps, was running an errand at police headquarters in Lower Manhattan for his employer, the Rosedale-based law firm Cooper & Cully. When the first plane hit the Trade Center, Pearlman called the law firm to tell them he was headed to Ground Zero with police to help the victims. He was killed administering first aid.

“No one expected him to be anywhere near the World Trade Center that day,” said Gordon Bennett, scoutmaster for Troop 106, where Pearlman was an assistant scoutmaster. “No one expected him to help others there, but that's what he did. He was determined to help.”

Pearlman's body was recovered in March 2002. He is survived by his parents and sister, Lisa Ann Pearlman, 21.

“They died not because they couldn't leave the Trade Center, but because they would not leave the Trade Center,” Mirovsky said. “I don't know where we get these people like Richie from, but we're grateful for them.”

Pearlman had planned to start an EMT college program in October 2001 and was eager to become a full-time paramedic, said William Engel, treasurer of the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

“He was a courteous man, always trying to help others,” he said. “He was doing his job, maybe more than he should have.”

Mirovsky, supervisor of airport maintenance services at LaGuardia, heard Pearlman's story from William DeCota, director of aviation for the Port Authority, and president of the Boy Scout Council in Queens.

“Richie Pearlman really shows that heroes live,” DeCota said. “They live right here in New York and right here in Queens.”

Mirovsky brought the idea of dedicating a tree in Pearlman's honor to the Queens Botanical Board, which unanimously agreed, he said.

Pearlman's mother, Dorie Pearlman, selected the tree, and she picked the magnolia, located off the Cherry Circle near Main Street, because it blooms just after her son's March birthday, she said.

“I think it's beautiful,” she said. “He was a lively person. This is a living tree.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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