The funeral yesterday, at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic church on Staten Island, was the first in many months for a firefighter. Yet the rawness of the emotions on display -- as firefighters stood in the pouring rain while taps played, a police helicopter flew overhead and a powder-blue coffin was lifted onto a ceremonial firetruck to be carried to the nearby cemetery -- served as one more demonstration of the enormous pain caused by the Sept. 11 attack.

Mr. Cammarata's family had waited almost 21 months for word that the remains of the 22-year-old probationary firefighter had been recovered and identified. Unwilling to put off the funeral any longer, yesterday they buried a vial of blood Mr. Cammarata had donated before he died, along with his department uniform, letters to his girlfriend, hockey sticks and baseball gloves, the funeral director said.

To date, 208 of the 343 firefighters killed on Sept. 11 have been positively identified. Firefighter Cammarata, who lived with his parents on Staten Island, was the first to be buried in a department ceremony in which the ''recovered remains'' consisted of nothing more than a vial of donated blood, city officials said.

Mr. Cammarata, nicknamed ''The Face'' by his fellow firefighters for his movie-star looks, achieved a perfect score on the Fire Department's written exam and physical. He was last seen going into the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel on the morning of Sept. 11 to try to evacuate any guests or staff. It had only been four months since he was sworn in as a firefighter and assigned to Ladder Company 11 on East Second Street, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The hotel was nearly flattened when the towers collapsed.

His family wrote in Little League Online:

On Sept. 11, 2001, at 8:54 a.m. from the firehouse on East Second Street in Alphabet City, Ladder Company 11, a phone call was made to the Cammarata family from their youngest son Michael. He left a message on his father’s voicemail stating: “I am going to the World Trade Center, a plane just hit it. Just tell everyone I am all right.”

Those were the last words he said to his family.

Michael was born on Oct. 7, 1978. He was only 22 years old on the date of the attack.

He was looking forward to graduating the fire academy and being permanently assigned to Ladder 11. Michael was given the gift to carry on his uncle’s shield number of 33 years, No. 1138.

Playing Little League Baseball as an all star, he competed in the Little League World Series, reaching second in the United States and third in the world. ...

Michael was scouted by the Wagner College Hockey Club on Staten Island, soon to be named Rookie of the Year in 1996. In 1997, as a sophomore in college, he was the youngest to be named MVP in Wagner College history. In 1997, he led his team to the Metropolitan Collegiate Conference Championship title. In 1998, he led Wagner to another championship.

In 1999, Michael left college to work in the building industry with his father. During this time, he was anxiously awaiting a call to be accepted for a job as a fireman. This he wanted since he was a little boy. Michael scored an impressive 105 perfect score on the New York Fireman’s Test, with a list number of 345. He was quickly called to duty and sworn in as a firefighter on May 3, 2001. He had a passion and love for the job. He was in his 14-week training program awaiting official graduation. ...

Michael had an extreme love and closeness for his family, friends, and fellow firefighters. His personality made light of any dark situation, ... with his brother saying, “You can never find a better best friend.”

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer