When more than 100 Valley Stream firefighters, elected officials, family members and friends gathered outside the Engine Company No. 3 firehouse last Saturday morning to honor the life of the late Michael Field, one thing was certain, his son Richard re-marked: “He would not like this.”
“He didn’t like the recognition,” he said. “He did his job, and that was it.”
Six months had passed since Field, a longtime volunteer EMT with the Valley Stream Fire Department, died at age 59 after contracting the coronavirus from a patient he was transporting in a department ambulance. The crowd gathered in the early-autumn sun to celebrate a special honor bestowed on Field for his sacrifice.
At 10:30 a.m., the state Department of Transportation designated the Corona Avenue span over the Southern State Parkway, near Exit 15, the Firefighter-EMT Michael J. Field Bridge.
“Even when faced with an unknown pandemic, he answered calls and alarms, and went above the call of duty,” First Assistant Fire Chief Patrick Scanlon said, adding that it was not how Field died that made him a hero, but the life he lived.
If Field were there, Scanlon said, he would likely have thought the ceremony ironic and let out one of the belly laughs he was known for.
Field had been a department member since 1987, and was active in the Nassau County Junior Firefighters Association and the Valley Stream Junior Fire Department. He was also a Cub Scout pack leader and Little League coach. He helped organize the Nassau County Fire Riders’ Christmas in June toy drive for patients at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center. And he was known for his love of pets. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of chief.
“Everyone could agree he was a character, but he was our character,” Mayor Ed Fare said. “. . . He was our friend. We all have a Mike Field story.”
Most recently, Field was a village employee, working in the Department of Public Works after his retirement from the New York City Fire Department, where he was also an EMT. He was at the World Trade Center towers before and after they collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001. He was a lifelong Valley Stream resident and a 1979 graduate of Central High School.
Fare met Field in seventh-grade English class, he recalled, and because seating was in alphabetical order, they typically sat near each other throughout their junior high and high school years. Fare recounted his final text message exchange with Field, shortly after he was admitted to the hospital, in which Fare sent his regards to Field’s wife, Stacy. It seemed routine at the time, but seven days later, Fare said, Field was dead.
“I save those text messages, and I look at them from time to time,” he said, “and I still can’t believe it.”
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, of Long Beach, and Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, of Elmont, introduced the bill to name the local bridge in Field’s honor. It passed both houses of the State Legislature on July 24 before Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law.
“As the sun rises and the sun sets, we are each given 24 hours, seven days a week. For public servants, they take those times those precious minutes and give it back to the community,” Solages said. “Our police, our firefighters and our EMTs give back to our community and without a second thought sacrifice everything, and all to ensure the public is in good standing. Michael was one of those gems.”
Kaminsky noted Field’s storied life, likening it to a book filled with chapters on friends, family and service to others. His courage during a dark period in the state’s history, he said, would serve as an example to others.
“For as long as the road shall be a highway, all cars passing by will see his name,” Kaminsky said.
Young people, he said, will ask, “‘Who was EMT Michael Field?’ They will then go back to that book and open those chapters and share with future generations all those lessons.”
Richard Field thanked the officials for honoring his father and offering their support. He also thanked his two brothers, Steven and Jason, who are also VSFD firefighters and his mother, whom he noted had been thrust into also taking on the role of father in Field’s absence.
“She’s the glue of the family now,” he said.