PATERSON, NJ- When a 1991 fire destroyed the old Meyers Brothers Department Store on Main Street and claimed the life of Paterson Firefighter John Nicosia, the city joined together in mourning.

The loss of Nicosia, Deputy Chief Kevin Hancock recalled to TAPinto Paterson recently, was a reminder of the “dangers firefighters face on a daily basis." His fallen colleague, then only one year his senior, represents one of 28 line of duty deaths for the Paterson Fire Department, each one a firefighter who “came to work like we do each day, but did not get to go home to their families.

Unfortunately for at least one person, the loss is not significant enough to keep the memorial plaque placed in his honor to remain free of vandalism.

Sign Up for E-News

“For someone to disrespect a fallen hero in this manner is an absolute disgrace,” stated Paterson Firefighter Association President Jerry Behnke in announcing a $500 reward for any information that leads to the arrest of the person that committed the act. “For us this is sacred ground, and we will act swiftly to not only clean it up, but to also make sure that whoever did it is punished to the fullest extent possible.”

For Luis Vega, the longest serving active member of the Paterson Fire Department, the vandalism hit especially hard as he served alongside Nicosia. “John represented the very best of Paterson,” Vega said. “Whoever did this represents the worst.”