Manfredi, a 10-year-old boy from Italy, told his volunteers that he wished to be a firefighter in New York – a wish he could never imagine would come true. After his wish experience, his mom wrote a letter about the experience and the inspiring, life-changing lesson her son learned from his wish.
8 October 2016
At 7 o’clock we leave Milano linate airport for Rome. Manfredi does not know that we will continue onto NY. Whilst changing terminals in Rome, Manfredi comments that “how long must we walk to go and fetch our baggage?” We arrive at the departure gate and we disclose our destination: New York Fire Department with Make-A-Wish. The surprise silences him and is shortly followed by tears of happiness. We hand the letter to the air hostess and after a few minutes, Manfredi is invited by Captain Simonetti and his co-pilot to visit the cockpit. He returns a few minutes later wearing the captain's cap. For the entire trip, he is pampered by the cabin staff. I see him often with shiny eyes and he asks me: “Do I really deserve all this?”.
We are greeted in NY by some light rain, but it does not worry us. Manfredi is busy looking everywhere. It is the first time in a long time that we see him looking so happy.
Monday, an important day.
Manfredi has been awake since 4 o’clock and we wait for Anna Driscoll of Make-A-Wish and fireman Carl Graziano who will accompany us on our visit. Carl satisfies him with everything, sirens which ring, overtakes in the fast lane, a true fireman’s day. Manfredi enters immediately in his role of fireman and he finds himself between American and Italians when we arrive at the point of arrival at the Columbus Day celebrations. The day before we were met by the association of Italian-American past firemen and by Mr. Nigro, the head of the firemen of New York.
The Columbus Day parade begins which renders homage to Cardinal Donell. Soon after, Manfredi is presented to the cardinal. At the end of the parade, we are invited to lunch by the New York Fire Department who went out of their way for Manfredi. They gave him caps, t-shirts and all the gadgets that they could find.
After Lunch, Carl took us on a tour of New York and of Ground Zero. It was very emotional to see two large pools of water gently cascading remembering the 3000 people who lost their lives. Carl showed us the names of his fallen colleagues and he recounted their story to us. Before returning to our hotel, we stopped at a fire brigade on 8th avenue. Manfredi could not believe his eyes. We then went to eat a pizza with Carl and went to our hotel where we fell asleep immediately after such a long and exciting day.
Tuesday, the most important day. Carl and the volunteer from Make-A-Wish and Jennifer, the photographer arrive to collect us. We go towards Brooklyn to the general quarters of the fire brigade. Manfredi is so taken with the atmosphere that he becomes emotional. We await Mr. Nigro for the start of the ceremony. Mr. Nigro then invites Manfredi, announcing that he was nominated to be the honorary fireman of New York. The ceremony begins. Manfredi is anxious but happy. He takes the oath of allegiance, followed by his nomination, a standing ovation and an exchange of gifts that we bought from Italy and that the American friends give to him. Manfredi is now very emotional.
We proceed to reach the Fireman’s Academy where we are met by the Director of the Academy. We are taken to see the altar where there are the photographs of all the firemen who lost their lives at ground Zero 343. At least 200 men lost their lives.
We then start the exercises with lieutenant Giuseppe Di Stefano. We put out a car on fire and make a decent from a fifth story building, something which firemen all are afraid of. Manfredi passes his test with flying colors.
All dreams are beautiful, but it is important to be able to live them…. This is the philosophy that Make-A-Wish allowed Manfredi to live and to whom we will be forever grateful.