One of Michael’s proudest moments is when he became a member of the New York City Fire Department. He enjoyed a great career and also thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie within it’s ranks. Unfortunately, a back injury ended his career early, maybe too early, one of the issues he struggled with after leaving the fire service. The pictures above tell only a portion of what he was as a person. I am Joseph Bonanno, Michael’s brother and also a veteran of the FDNY.
The picture above is of Michael (in the light blue shirt) and I, at a train station with our gear on September 12, 2001 on our way to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. Even dealing with a disabling back injury, he insisted on responding and we both worked side by side, tirelessly in search of survivors or helping other firefighters. His company, Ladder 7, lost 5 members that day and it was his shift that was working that morning. We all lost so much that terrible morning as the world both grieved and applauded the FDNY.
Michael married, adopted a daughter and lived in several places, Morro Bay, CA, Asheville, NC, Destin, FL and eventually settled in Cleveland, OH.
Our family suffered another terrible loss early in our lives. Our dear mother, Audrey Bonanno was severely burned in a fire in our home in 1981 and succumbed to the injuries a week later. Michael, like all of us, took it hard, as well as 9/11 and struggled with alcohol, family issues, back pain and depression. He worked very hard to fight these demons and assisted so many others through difficult times. He volunteered much at his local church, was a talent in the kitchen cooking for the homeless, learned all the various home improvement skills and helped so many with this, sponsoring AA meetings and was always there if and when needed.
He was a kind soul and loved by many. Sadly, on July 31, 2012, he took his life in a terrible way, which shocked and saddened all who knew him. It was something that most firefighters cannot fathom happening, yet it happens more often than I ever knew and sadly, now know personally. The grief and confusion that happens the wake of suicide is something no one should ever have to endure, especially those who sacrifice so much for so many. For those that read this and have considered suicide as an option, PLEASE GO SOMEWHERE FOR HELP. I can tell you first hand, you are not better off and for sure, not the ones you leave behind. For the survivors of suicide, I also wish that you seek help and support and pray for your healing.