Veterans memorials

Michael Carlo, FDNY
5/20/1967 - 9/11/2001

Michael Carlo

Tour of Honor rider and organizer of America’s Ultimate Long Distance Rider (AULDR) Rob Carlo speaks fondly of his brother, sharing a bond that was admired by many because they weren't just brothers, but best friends, as well. 

Michael was the adventurer, the free spirit, the risk taker between the two and Rob looked up to his younger brother in many ways. Before they were 27 years old, they were co-homeowners, landlords, business partners, sailors and firemen in the elite 12,000-member New York City Fire Department.

Rob was actually the first in the family to become a firefighter, having been mentored by firemen at a young age. Back in the mid-1990s, getting into the FDNY was extremely competitive with often 40,000 people a year applying for just 5-6,000 positions. If one didn't score 100% on both the written and physical tests held every four years, they needed to be close to it. Success was usually only met after several tries. Rob and Michael were no exceptions, but perseverance paid off for both of them.

Besides being an avid sailor, Michael had a need for speed on a Kawasaki sport bike, and Rob would follow later after 9/11, purchasing a Harley Davidson Firefighter’s Edition in 2002 which he still owns to this day. In the late 1990s, the two of them started a successful roofing business and when they weren’t working in the firehouse, they were on the job with Michael handling employees, and Rob handling sales and paperwork. It was Michael who had to convince Rob to take time off for some relaxation. On September 12, 2001, they were to fly to the British Virgin Islands where they’d spend time on the sand and finally earn their Sailing Captain’s License.

On the morning of September 11, they were both finishing up their shifts in their respective firehouses, Rob in Ladder Company 23 and Michael in Engine Company 230 when the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Michael had gone to the roof of his firehouse where he and other firehouse staff could see smoke and fire pouring out of the WTC and he called Rob to tell him what he was seeing. When the second plane hit the South Tower, Michael got called into action and Rob ended the conversation with, “be careful, maybe we’ll see each other there.”

Rob was then called to the Times Square Firehouse, where he watched in horror the collapse of the South Tower on a computer screen, knowing his brother was in the lobby performing triage as survivors were brought down the stairs.

At 11PM that night, Rob went to Ground Zero and for seven months was allowed full access to the site, participating in recovery operations and hoping to find something — anything — that belonged to his brother. In spite of DNA tests on over 10,000 human remains, some as small as a quarter, none were attributed to Michael or his fellow crewmembers.

On what would have been Michael’s 35th birthday, against protocol, Rob brought flowers and a photo of smiling Michael in his turnout gear, and duct-taped them to a beam below ground level. The beam soon became a shrine of sorts and more mementoes were added, and it eventually became the centerpoint of the 9/11 Museum in New York.

September is always tough on Rob when he’s called to attend so many remembrances. He’s yet to visit the beam with his brother’s picture in person, he's still not ready after 19 years. One thing he’s found helpful to cope, is riding his beach cruiser bicycle for charity, and on his birthday every August, he rides it on the Long Beach Boardwalk for 24 hours straight, last year raising over $25,000 for New Ground, a charity that helps homeless veterans.

Found on a Post-It over Michael’s desk, a quote from Mark Twain: "Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones that you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Rob and the rest of the Carlo family are grateful for the thoughts and and prayers and remembering Michael for the fine hero he was. Never forget.

To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 heroes, a Michael Carlo Award will be given to the Tour of Honor motorcycle rider who visits the most 9/11 Memorials during the year. 2nd and 3rd place plaques will also be given out. All visits will be scored, but only 10 per state will count toward these special awards.



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