High School classmates become the ‘Finest' brothers

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:49

    CENTRAL VALLEY-Five years ago, the Monroe-Woodbury School District's newsletter recounted the story of high school student Michael Penner saved the life of a two year-old Chester girl. The story was titled: "Heroes in our midst." A week ago Wednesday, at Walt Whitman Hall of Brooklyn College, Penner and three other members of M-W's Class of 2000 were among 235 graduated from the training academy of the Fire Department of the City of New York. Penner will be assigned to Engine Co. 79 in the Bronx; firefighter Kevin Grace Jr. will be assigned to Engine Co. 43 in the Bronx; firefighter Michael Schiavone will be assigned to Ladder Co. 36 in Manhattan's Inwood section; and firefighter Tyler Schulz will be assigned to Ladder Co.34 in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. Penner and Grace are second-generation firefighters. In 2000, Penner was a Monroe-Woodbury wrestling team scholar athlete. According to the district's newsletter, "Penner and his family returned home from a trip to North Carolina to find their neighbors anxiously looking for their two-year old son, Matthew. Michael and his father joined the search with Michael deciding to look by the pond near his home. When he got closer, he thought he saw a ball floating in the water. It turned out to be the missing two-year old. Mike yelled to his dad, who is a firefighter, to call 911 and get help. Mike started rescue breathing on the baby and then his dad took over. Chester ambulance arrived on the scene and the baby was saved. Mike is currently in Mrs. Laura Pietropaolo's 11th period CPR class." Grace joined the United States Marine Corps when he was 18, months after graduating from high school. As a lance corporal, he had his hopes set on joining the FDNY when he was fighting in the Middle East in the War on Terrorism, his father, retired FDNY firefighter Kevin Grace Sr., said. "He was gung-ho at the beginning," the older Grace said. "But he was overseas for Christmas and overseas for 9/11. And his girlfriend is here. He misses everyone." His son will wear his FDNY logo and vest while on the job. After graduating high school, Schulz went on to Ithaca College where he became an all-star basketball player. The FDNY lost 343 men in the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Firefighter Keithroy M. Maynard of Engine Co. 33, whose remains were only recently identified, was finally buried June 11. "Day in and day out, New York's Bravest face the most extreme challenges to protect their fellow New Yorkers," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the graduates. "I congratulate today's graduates and am confident that they will put their training to good use and serve this City with bravery and dedication." The class also featured 13 firefighters who previously served in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Grace. Also graduating were four firefighters whose loved ones were among the 343 firefighters who died on Sept. 11.