NEW YORK -- The commanding officer of Camp Bucca, Iraq, the largest internment camp in American history, presented their flag to the family of Ronald Bucca Sr. above the New York City Fire Museum Sept. 11.
Bucca, a New York City fire marshal, was killed in the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001. In 2003, the detention facility was renamed in his honor as a tribute to the only fire marshal killed in the line of duty.
Col. Dan Lund, the last commanding officer of the camp, brought the Camp Bucca flag that had flown over the base to present to the family members as a tribute to Bucca’s sacrifice and bravery. The largest internment camp in American history will become a commercial area with an Iraqi force using a small part of the original outlay.
Ronald Bucca Sr. served as a Green Beret in Vietnam and later was an intelligence analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency. He continued his Army service as a reservist once he joined the FDNY in 1986 until an injury on the job prevented him from completing the parachutist qualification needed for Army Special Forces. After the 1993 bombings of the World Trade Center, Bucca was one of the fire marshals called in to investigate the attack.
“He was tracking the beginnings of al-Qaida,” said Ronald Bucca Jr.
He was then sent to work on the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which combined FBI agents with local law enforcement. He was the only representative from the fire department on the task force. By 2000, with no large terrorist attacks in the area, Bucca was taken off the task force, and the fire department’s seat was removed, his son said.
A year later, Bucca along with Battalion Chief Orio Palmer had walked two thirds of the way up the tallest building in the country, farther than any other rescue team, helping as many people as possible escape the largest attack on American soil. His last radio call came from the 78th floor shortly before the building collapsed.
Bucca’s friends remembered him as a humble man, “He’d be very embarrassed about this, but humbled,” said Michael Parisi, a family friend of the Buccas. “He would always say that the real heroes are the ones in Arlington (National Cemetery).”
In the early years most of the guests knew Bucca personally. As the years wore on more fire marshals came to the event hearing only second hand accounts of his bravery. With slightly more than 100 fire marshals on the city rosters, this brings together a community of active and retired to reflect on the past.
“It’s important for us to air out our souls. We make the world aware of these things,” Parisi said.
Santandrea first heard stories about Bucca from his firefighter father. News clippings about the Bucca family including Ronald Jr., a member of the elite Army Special Forces unit like his late father, adorn the fire marshal’s office. “Anything that goes on with his son gets hung up and passed around. A bunch of (fire marshals) went to his graduation, we follow his whole story.”
Lund, a Pawtucket, R.I., native, learned of Bucca’s heroism after taking command of the camp, and then made a point of telling all newly-arriving troops about the fire marshal. ‘This is one of the most fulfilling experiences of my Marine career,” he said of presenting the flag to the Bucca family. “This brings everything back full circle.”