Last week, Federal District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis upheld the Bush Administration’s 2007 Vulcan Society lawsuit, which was filed in the name of then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Judge Garaufis ruled that the Fire Department of New York racially discriminated in its 1999 and 2002 hiring tests by asking questions that blacks and Hispanics less often answered correctly. Judge Garaufis held:
“From 1999 to 2007, the New York City Fire Department used written examinations with discriminatory effects and little relationship to the job of a firefighter … These examinations unfairly excluded hundreds of qualified people of color… Today, the court holds that New York City’s reliance on these examinations constitutes employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
Thankfully, we now have heroes like General Gonzales and Judge Garaufis to protect us from the likes of young Cammarata. In our society’s total war against racism and Disparate Impact, we must not only honor the General and the Judge by making firefighter exams less discriminating; but we must also admit the power of their logic and publicly dishonor those who profited from this shameful violation of civil rights. For example, Cammarata’s white male privilege permitted him to “earn” a perfect score on that 1999 exam that Judge Garaufis determined, by drawing upon his vast statistical sophistication, was racially biased and irrelevant. The New York Times reported on December 16, 2001:
A day after Michael Cammarata died in the attack on the World Trade Center, his brother, Joseph, went through his things looking for a birth certificate. On the top drawer of Michael’s night table, Joseph found a letter — the kind of letter that a brother never wants to read. It was a what-to-do list in case something happened to him.
No. 1 on the list: “Take care of Jenna,” referring to his girlfriend of seven years.
No. 2: “Don’t mourn me. This is the career I chose.”
Michael Cammarata, 22, was a firefighter with Ladder Company 11 in Manhattan. He died on the ninth week of a 14-week training program. He lived with his parents in Huguenot, Staten Island.
No. 3: “Make my spirit live on.”
No. 4: “Remember I love you all and will be waiting for you upstairs.”
From the time he was 7, Michael Cammarata wanted to be a firefighter. He was fascinated by fire engines and trucks. In his fireman’s test, which he took with his brother, Michael got a perfect score; Joseph did not.
“They wanted to be together,” his mother, Linda Cammarata said of her two sons. “Thank God they didn’t.”
Joseph, 24, is a police officer. On Jan. 14, he, too, will join the Fire Department.
From the New York Times, June 8, 2003:
The funeral yesterday, at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic church on Staten Island, was the first in many months for a firefighter. Yet the rawness of the emotions on display — as firefighters stood in the pouring rain while taps played, a police helicopter flew overhead and a powder-blue coffin was lifted onto a ceremonial firetruck to be carried to the nearby cemetery — served as one more demonstration of the enormous pain caused by the Sept. 11 attack.
Mr. Cammarata’s family had waited almost 21 months for word that the remains of the 22-year-old probationary firefighter had been recovered and identified. Unwilling to put off the funeral any longer, yesterday they buried a vial of blood Mr. Cammarata had donated before he died, along with his department uniform, letters to his girlfriend, hockey sticks and baseball gloves, the funeral director said.
To date, 208 of the 343 firefighters killed on Sept. 11 have been positively identified. Firefighter Cammarata, who lived with his parents on Staten Island, was the first to be buried in a department ceremony in which the ”recovered remains” consisted of nothing more than a vial of donated blood, city officials said.
Mr. Cammarata, nicknamed ”The Face” by his fellow firefighters for his movie-star looks, achieved a perfect score on the Fire Department’s written exam and physical. He was last seen going into the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel on the morning of Sept. 11 to try to evacuate any guests or staff. It had only been four months since he was sworn in as a firefighter and assigned to Ladder Company 11 on East Second Street, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The hotel was nearly flattened when the towers collapsed.
His family wrote in Little League Online:
On Sept. 11, 2001, at 8:54 a.m. from the firehouse on East Second Street in Alphabet City, Ladder Company 11, a phone call was made to the Cammarata family from their youngest son Michael. He left a message on his father’s voicemail stating: “I am going to the World Trade Center, a plane just hit it. Just tell everyone I am all right.”
Those were the last words he said to his family.
Michael was born on Oct. 7, 1978. He was only 22 years old on the date of the attack.
He was looking forward to graduating the fire academy and being permanently assigned to Ladder 11. Michael was given the gift to carry on his uncle’s shield number of 33 years, No. 1138.
Playing Little League Baseball as an all star, he competed in the Little League World Series, reaching second in the United States and third in the world. …
Michael was scouted by the Wagner College Hockey Club on Staten Island, soon to be named Rookie of the Year in 1996. In 1997, as a sophomore in college, he was the youngest to be named MVP in Wagner College history. In 1997, he led his team to the Metropolitan Collegiate Conference Championship title. In 1998, he led Wagner to another championship.
In 1999, Michael left college to work in the building industry with his father. During this time, he was anx
iously awaiting a call to be accepted for a job as a fireman. This he wanted since he was a little boy. Michael scored an impressive 105 perfect score on the New York Fireman’s Test, with a list number of 345. He was quickly called to duty and sworn in as a firefighter on May 3, 2001. He had a passion and love for the job. He was in his 14-week training program awaiting official graduation. …
Michael had an extreme love and closeness for his family, friends, and fellow firefighters. His personality made light of any dark situation, … with his brother saying, “You can never find a better best friend.”