Jerry Barbara Remembered for His Professionalism, Love of Baseball

Jerry Barbara Remembered for His Professionalism, Love of Baseball

Left: Portrait photograph of Gerard A. Barbara in his FDNY Class A dress uniform. Top right: Gerard A. Barbara wearing a Yankees jersey and baseball cap. Bottom right: Buttons from baseball games honoring FDNY Assistant Chief Gerard A. Barbara. Collection 9/11 Memorial Museum, Gift of Joanne Barbara, Caren Barbara-Villarreal, and Paul Barbara.

The Staten Island Yankees, a minor-league affiliate of the New York Yankees, host Chief Jerry Barbara Night at a game every summer. FDNY Assistant Chief Barbara, who lived on Staten Island, was a supporter of the team, as well as the major league Yankees in the Bronx.

With famed powerhouse teams such as the New York Yankees and the New York Mets, as well as the legacy of departed teams like the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York City is a baseball town.

After 9/11, as New Yorkers struggled to find a sense of normalcy, baseball emerged as a powerful healing force in bringing the city together. After the attacks, memorial games and charity events were hosted by baseball teams in the tri-state area, like Jerry Barbara Night, an annual event hosted by the Staten Island Yankees, a minor league affiliate for the New York Yankees. 

Assistant FDNY Chief Gerard “Jerry” A. Barbara, 53, was a 31-year veteran firefighter and Staten Island resident. He distinguished himself in his career by campaigning for stricter standards in fire safety for residential buildings in New York City.

As an ardent fan of the New York Yankees and its Staten Island namesake, Barbara was thrilled when his professional life and his passion for baseball merged in 1998, when he was called to the Bronx to inspect the Yankee Stadium facility after a 500-pound piece of concrete fell from its upper deck. He conducted a safety inspection of the structure and had his picture taken all over the historic field.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Barbara arrived at the World Trade Center in his full-dress gear. Upon realizing the severity of the situation, he changed into his bunker gear to help assist in the evacuation of the towers. By all accounts, Barbara displayed a reassuring calm and intense focus before the towers collapsed.

In an oral history recorded by the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Barbara’s wife, Joanne, remembers him as a modest and devoted member of the FDNY. Even though he had a high rank, he insisted on referring to himself as a firefighter. “Jerry took the job extremely seriously; there was no room for sloppiness or inefficiency,” Joanne remembers. “He was a professional. It wasn’t just a job to him.”

Since 2001, the Barbara family have found many ways to honor Chief Barbara’s vibrant life and multiple passions. To celebrate his love for baseball, his wife and two children have instituted the annual Chief Jerry Barbara Night hosted every summer at the Yankee’s Staten Island stadium. 

Pictorial buttons donated to the 9/11 Memorial Museum collection memorializes these special evenings at the stadium with Barbara’s former neighbors and friends, coworkers and growing family, and are currently on view in the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s new special exhibition “Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11.”

By 9/11 Memorial Staff