Beyond his uncommon odd first name, Battalion 7 Deputy Chief Orio Joseph Palmer was well known in the New York City Fire Department for his dedication and his athletic endeavors. Today, a white rose was placed in his name on the 9/11 Memorial, marking what would have been his 60th birthday.
Rising through the ranks during his career, Palmer was considered to be one of the most knowledgeable men in the FDNY. The esteemed firefighter was also known for his athletic prowess. In 1989 he dedicated his first New York City Marathon to his daughter Dana in honor of her first birthday. He would go on to finish several more races and fitness challenges.
His wife Debbie Palmer remembers him as a light-hearted, humorous man who “loved goofing around with his three children and nieces and nephews.” She said he even made up fairy dances for his little girls.
On Sept. 11, after taking an elevator to the 41st floor Palmer climbed 37 flights of stairs with approximately 50 pounds of gear and made it to the South Tower sky lobby on the 78th floor. He is one of the few reported first responders able to make it that far up.
He reported via radio, out of breath and gasping, “Battalion Seven...Ladder 15, we've got two isolated pockets of fire. We should be able to knock it down with two lines. 78th floor numerous 10-45 Code Ones (victims).”
According to The 9/11 Commission Report, Palmer and his team freed a group of civilians who were trapped in an elevator one minute before the tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m. Following his death, the FDNY named its fitness test after Palmer.
By Jenny Pachucki, 9/11 Memorial Content Strategist