The mood was somber, yet hopeful, as firefighters, family and friends gathered at the on Saturday. They were there for a Spaghetti dinner – a fundraiser to help with the medical bills of one of their own, Ralph Lettieri Jr. Lettieri has been battling a that has left him hospitalized.
Only a half hour into the all-day, nine hour long dinner the dining hall was packed with people showing support for Lettieri.
“On behalf of my brother Ralph Lettieri Sr. and my mom Karen Lettieri, it has been incredible,” Maria Mahoney said. “They are going to be overwhelmed. We know this is a brotherhood but the outpouring has been amazing – it’s nothing we could have ever dreamed of or expected. There are no words to describe how grateful we are.”
Mahoney, along with her husband John, a fire captain, expressed thanks to all in the firefighting community who came to support Ralph. “When you join the fire service, you realize you joined the family and the brotherhood and you don’t realize how big that family is until something happens and everybody has to get together - then you see what the brotherhood is all about,” John Mahoney said. “You can’t get it anywhere else.”
Hagerman Fire Chief Anthony Citarella was able to give a brief update on Lettieri’s condition.
“He’s had a fairly good week,” Citarella said. “They actually had him standing (Friday), which is a good thing. His vital signs are becoming more stable. They’ve taken him off the ventilator, he’s still on pain medication and they’re still treating him for infection of the leg – the leg was amputated. He’s had some good days and that’s what we’re looking for.
“We’re being very optimistic because he’s had a couple of good days and then he’s had a couple of bad days,” he continued. “He’s been on a good roll and our prayers are with him and you can see the amount of people here and the support that’s out there for him but he seems to be doing a little better. We just keep praying for him.”
Lettieri, one of the more active members of Hagerman – he was a member of the technical rescue and dive teams among others and was key in helping bring together the department’s 9/11 memorial – is sorely missed.
“Every time you turn around, there’s Ralphie,” Citarella said. “He’s one of those guys – me as a chief, I depend on him. I know I can make a phone call and Ralphie is here. You really don’t know what a loss it is to me until you step in my shoes. I really miss him and I want him back – I want him back as fast and as healthy as we can get him.”