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New Haven Firefighter Ricardo Torres Jr. Remembered Across Connecticut

Frankie Graziano
Connecticut Public
Firefighters in Wethersfield salute New Haven firefighter Ricardo Torres Jr., whose body was taken from New Haven to Hartford Thursday as part of a funeral procession. Torres died in a May 12 fire.

A New Haven firefighter who died while responding to a blaze last week was celebrated across Connecticut on Thursday.

The remembrance of Ricardo Torres Jr. started with a Funeral Mass in New Haven. It included a brave testimonial from his pregnant wife, Erica Martinez, who’s also left caring for their 11-month-old son.

“Rick, I’m angry. I miss you. I don’t care about you being a hero or not,” Martinez said. “You’re supposed to go to work, do your job, and come home.”

Martinez was able to smile and laugh a few times during her eulogy, at one point remembering how her first date with Torres some six years ago ended.

“He comes around the front of my car, opens my door, and tells me to get out,” Martinez said. “I do and we share our first kiss -- the rest is history.”

Torres died May 12 after he responded to a structure fire on Valley Street. He and colleague Lt. Samod Rankins made distress calls, but when help got there the two men were found unconscious, according to New Haven fire officials. Rankins was hospitalized and is said to be recovering.

The celebration of Torres’ life began at fire headquarters in New Haven and continued to St. Mary’s Church. One of the people who eulogized Torres there was Capt. Kendall Richardson. He and Torres met at the academy, where Richardson trained Torres. Their relationship grew from there. Richardson recalled a conversation they had the last time they worked together.

“I told him that if I were to ever lose one of my firefighters, that I’d be broken,” Richardson said. “I’m freakin’ broken.”

Torres was known to his colleagues as “Tornado” for being mission-oriented and fast-paced, said Lt. William Riggott.

“Tornado -- we love you, we miss you, we’ll never forget you.” Riggott said.

Torres was also memorialized at the church by his mother, Cathy Foster-Mendez, who raised him as a single mom.

She said she still can’t understand what happened to him, but she felt the need to speak at his funeral on his behalf.

“You almost always had a smile on your face, and God knows how I miss that big smile,” Foster-Mendez said.

After the funeral, Torres’ body was loaded onto a firetruck from his engine company, which made its way up I-91 toward Hartford.

Right before reaching the destination, the procession was met by first responders in Wethersfield, who saluted Torres as they stood under a giant American flag.

Town Fire Chief Rich Bailey said the flag was hung from an engine ladder so the procession could make it past one last American flag en route to the Hartford cemetery where Torres would be buried.

“This is what we do; we all stand together. Career, volunteer -- it doesn’t matter,” Bailey said.

John White and his wife, Diane, are Hartford firefighters. White had his two young girls with him.

“I do, which also makes me a little bit more emotional because I know he has young kids that have not yet grown up, who are now going to be without their father, and it just breaks my heart to think that that could be me or anyone else on the fire department at any time around the world,” White said.

Torres was laid to rest at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford. He was 30.

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