Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Michael Warchola Jr. and Linda Gronlund

May 5, 2011

The Southampton (NY) Press

'Time For Reflection'

Bin Laden death strikes chord

by Michael Wright

Denis Warchola was just waking up on Monday, his 65th birthday, when he heard the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by American soldiers in Pakistan on Sunday.

"I couldn't have gotten a better birthday present," said Mr. Warchola, a Southampton resident, military veteran, retired New York City firefighter and brother of Fire Department of New York Lieutenant Michael Warchola Jr., who was killed just weeks short of his own retirement during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

"I just love the way they did it," he continued. "They didn't use one of those stupid bombs---they went in shooting. They went over the wall and they went in and got him like men. I was in the Army myself, but all I can say today is, 'Go Navy.'"

On Sunday, an elite team of U.S. Navy Seals conducted a raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan where Bin Laden had reportedly lived for the past five years. He resisted the soldiers and was killed. His body was buried at sea swiftly after the raid, in accord with Islamic rules.

For Mr. Warchola's father, Michael Warchola Sr., the death of the leader and face of Al Qaeda was less relief than reminder The elder Mr. Warchola said when he heard the news, he was reminded of that horrible day, and while he was glad that Bin Laden was brought to justice, the memory is still very painful.

"I'm glad they got him, I guess, but I still feel sad," Mr. Warchola said at his Southampton Village home. "The anger, I think, is dying down, but you never forget about any of it. There's nothing we can do about any of it that really helps."

The news came as bittersweet to Sag Harbor resident Doris Gronlund, whose daughter Linda Gronlund, was a passenger aboard United Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2001, when passengers tried to wrest control of the plane back from its hijackers.

"Today, I don't feel very nice," Ms. Gronlund said. "It's a very sad day in many ways. There is no, hurrah. Yes, I'm glad he was caught, but it doesn't change anything. It will never bring that wonderful woman back."

Mr. [sic] Gronlund said the occasion did bring out the best in the supportive nature of the Sag Harbor community. She visited the Linda Gronlund Memorial Preserve in Barcelona and found that someone had planted a small American flag next to the sign honoring her daughter.

"I was so moved," she said. "That's the kind of love I have in this village. It's so incredible to me how caring people are."

But Ms. Gronlund said she is equally pained by the suggestion that Bin Laden's death would somehow assuage the pain of her loss.

"There's a word that people keep saying to me that I haven't gotten myself around: closure. Nobody is going to tell me that I'm going to not be missing my great, elegant, smart daughter," she said of Linda, who was an attorney for BMW of North America in New Jersey and was flying to California with her fiancée on September 11, 2001. "How much more she could have done---she was just 46 years old."

Ms. Gronlund will participate in the dedication of a memorial to all of the Flight 93 victims in Shanksville, Pennsylvania in September in honor of the 10th anniversary of that dark day.

On Monday morning, U.S. Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton also described Bin Laden's death as an opportunity for everyone to remember those from near and far who died in the terrorist attacks and in the war that sprang from them.

"As we mark this momentous day, I hope all Americans will take a moment to remember the lives lost as a result of Osama bin Laden's evil,"he said, calling the killing an important victory and a triumph for justice.

New York Senator Charles Schumer trumpeted the skill and bravery of those who executed the strike on the fortified compound where Bin Laden had been living.

"This is a massive accomplishment for the countless military and intelligence personnel who have been urgently dedicated to this task for the past decade," he said in a statement. "This successful mission sends a definitive message to those who would test the resolve of the United States of America...if you do us harm, we will find you, we will mete out justice and we will prevail."

As he took Michael Warchola's daughter to a doctor's appointment, Denis Warchola nodded to the symbolic importance of Bin Laden's death and said it was a proud day for Americans, even if it was just another sad one for the families of the victims.

"I know it's just one guy, but he was the face of al Qaeda and it tells them that they can run but they can't hide," Mr. Warchola said. "It gives me a little pleasure, I guess. I'm proud today, proud to be an American. I'm proud of this country and I'm proud of our president for sending them in there that way, like men."


September 21, 2001,

The [Somerset County PA] Daily American,

'Firefighter with local ties among N.Y. victims,'

by Vicki Rock,
Daily American Staff Writer

NEW YORK CITY - Mike Warchola, 51, was retiring at the end of this month. A lieutenant of Ladder Co. 5 of the Fire Department of New York, he was one of the firemen to rush to the scene of the first plane crash at the World Trade Center.

The men of No. 5 and 24 were among the first to respond. They pulled their fire trucks right up to the north tower and headed up the “A” stairwell. The men of Co. 24 made it up 37 floors, carrying heavy equipment, said Marcel Claes of Engine No. 24, and got an urgent message to come down. Co. 5 was up higher.

Warchola and seven others of Ladder Co. 5 perished. Denis, his brother, is also a captain in the fire department. He was not in the building when it collapsed. He helped with rescue efforts and worked to find his brother’s body which was recovered Sept. 15.

Warchola’s father, Michael, is still living. His mother, Norah, is deceased. He has two children, Aaron and Amy Warchola, both in their 20s. His aunt and uncle, Bernard and Dorothy (Warchola) Oravec live in Johnstown. A cousin, Paul Warchola, is also a New York fireman. He was not injured.

"Denis is younger than Mike, and there’s an age difference with me, but they’d come visit us and we'd go there," his cousin, Bernie Oravec, Johnstown, said. "They weren’t used to the woods and we'd go out and put crab apples on sticks and fling them around. They’d take crab apples and sticks back to New York."

Mike and Denis loved the fire department, Oravec said.

"Mike was very nice, an active guy, athletic," he said. "Both Mike and Denis were very active in the fire department."

Oravec's parents received a call from Warchola's father who was visited by the parents of a rookie fireman. That rookie was on the truck with the others of the company, but Warchola wouldn't let him go in the building. He ordered him to leave, saving his life.

His funeral is today (Friday). Only one cousin will go from this area because of the difficulty getting in to New York now, Oravec said. His uncle suggested the others visit later.

The family is asking for donations to NYC Bravest Scholarship Fund, c/o Uniformed Fire Officers Assoc., 225 Broadway, Suit 401, New York, N.Y. 10007; or the NYCPD Burn Center.

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