The Columbia Association, a long time organization of charity and fraternity has donated $53,000 to the JFK Chamber of Commerce to help grow the JFK Chamber of Commerce 911 Memorial Park Fund. This eventual donation followed a maze of failed opportunities as the following story is told by Philip Maddalena, President, the Columbia Association.
According to Phil, months following the disaster at the World Trade Center, The Columbia Association decided to have a fundraiser in memory of all the Port Authority Officers who lost their lives. “We wanted to start a memorial fund to honor our brother and sister officers to be erected at JFK Airport. Our memorial fundraising luncheon was held on February 22, 2002 at Russo’s On the Bay. Frank Russo (owner) donated all proceeds to the fundraising. Total money raised at the function was $49,000.”
The next step was to find a co-sponsor or group that would partner in the project. Phil described how over the years, they had contacted several airlines at JFK to see if there was interest in our idea for a memorial to “The Heroes of the PAPD”. “To our dismay there was little interest shown,” he said.
He continued, “At one point I thought we had a good chance of putting our memorial at one of the airlines but we lost our connection. This past year I have had several meetings with Frank Russo, the Port Director of JFK. I advised Mr. Russo that Thomas Belfiore, Chief Security Officer for Port Authority of NY/NJ and one of our Italian Heritage Day honorees in 2016. had offered us a possible site at LaGuardia Airport for our memorial. However, our benefactor, Mr. Russo and I agreed it was better to keep the memorial at a JFK site.”
But still no real plan was in place and the money collected sat in the bank for 15 years.
By this time, the Organization was reaching a point of frustration in trying to engage partners to construct a memorial. However, members continued to search for a suitable project in which to invest this money.
Phil continues, “On August 4 of this year, I was advised presentations were made at a KAAMCO meeting that the JFK Airport Chamber of Commerce was proposing to put up a 9/11 memorial near the Federal Circle in JFK Airport. I attended the next meeting of JFK Airport Chamber of Commerce and informed them I had $53,000 to contribute to their memorial.
I am overwhelmed at this opportunity to finally achieve our dream to honor the “Heroes of the Port Authority Police Department.”
Phil talks a bit about the Port Authority Police that lost their lives during the attack:
Anthony Infante, Commanding Officer of the Port Authority Police at JFK Airport was our “Man of The Year” at our Annual Dinner Dance in 1998. The following year we also honored him at our Italian Heritage Day Luncheon. Anthony was the man most responsible for forging the close relationship that exists between U.S. Customs and the Port Authority Police. Anthony lost his life on 9/11 in the World Trade Center. For his efforts, Mayor Guiliani said that Anthony Infante directed one of the most effective rescues in the history of the United States that day.
Captain Kathy Mazza was 2nd in Command at JFK before being reassigned to the Police Academy. Kathy also lost her life on 9/11 at the World Trade Center. There are many stories attributed to Capt. Kathy Mazza who helped direct people to escape the main rotunda by shooting out the glass windows.
Another Port Authority Officer who lost his life in the 9/11 rescue was well known at JFK Airport, George Howard. For over a year he worked in a Special Task Force with our Customs Officers at JFK. George’s Mother presented President George Bush with her son’s badge.
Port Authority Officer, Dominick Pezzulo also worked at JFK and had only been on the job for one year was another hero who gave his life rescuing others on 9/11.
The Columbia Association of U.S. Customs and Affiliated Federal Agencies was founded in New York in 1946 as a charitable, fraternal, social and non-profit organization open to Italian Descent in the New York International Trade Community. The Columbia Association has now opened its membership to all persons regardless of ethnic background.