New York City’s Finest

by Ryan Edwards

Photos by Eddie Aung

In 1648, New York City founded its first official fire-fighting department. Prior to this, fire fighting was strictly a volunteer service. Despite this change a long time ago , volunteer fire fighters still outnumber the paid. In the 353 years of the New York fire department, thousands of men and women have worked hard to save lives on a daily basis. I was lucky enough to interview one of them. Captain John Newell of the 58th Engine in East Harlem has been fighting fires for the last 20 years. Captain Newell, now 50 years old, attended Suffolk Community College, majoring in General Studies, but he always knew he wanted to be a fire fighter. Being the son of a volunteer fire fighter, Newell felt a special calling to the civil service. He began fighting fires at the 45th Engine in the Bronx.

In 1648, New York City founded its first official fire-fighting department. Prior to this, fire fighting was strictly a volunteer service. Despite this change a long time ago , volunteer fire fighters still outnumber the paid. In the 353 years of the New York fire department, thousands of men and women have worked hard to save lives on a daily basis. I was lucky enough to interview one of them. Captain John Newell of the 58th Engine in East Harlem has been fighting fires for the last 20 years. Captain Newell, now 50 years old, attended Suffolk Community College, majoring in General Studies, but he always knew he wanted to be a fire fighter. Being the son of a volunteer fire fighter, Newell felt a special calling to the civil service. He began fighting fires at the 45th Engine in the Bronx.

When I asked the Captain how he feels about his job, he answered “I love my job.Sometimes I drive my friends crazy talking about my work.” Even though Newell is ecstatic about fire fighting, he does not want his daughters in the same line of work. “It’s too dangerous,” says Newell. Newell told me about many close calls, including a time when he was in a building and his superior officer pulled him out seconds before the building collapsed. The test to become a firefighter is very different now from how it was in 1977(the year Captain Newell took the test). The old test started with a written portion, “Out of the 40,000 who took it, only 10,000 of us made it on to the physical part of the test, that’s how competitive it was ” boasts Newell. The physical portion of the test consisted of an obstacle course, a “bar hang” (similar to pull-ups, minus the pulling), and a mile run. The test that is given to today’s recruits is a lot different .” It’s more job related,” says Newell. Today’s test still consists of a written portion, but the physical section is different, including a hook test, (in which candidates have to throw up a hook that actual fire fighters use) .As another part of their test they have to carry a 140 lb dummy up and down stairs.

As much fun as his work is, Cpt. Newell does have a life outside of the firehouse. In his spare time he coaches his daughter’s softball team, and he also likes to boat and fish. Cpt. Newell showed me that fire fighting is not only rewarding, but also a fun and interesting line of work. In addition, Cpt. Newell made me realize that firefighters are an extremely important part of our society. We owe a lot to them, for they selflessly put their lives on the line to save ours, everyday. We should thank and honor Cpt. Newell and others like him.

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Aboulaye Ballo

Hello my name is Aboulaye Ballo. I am twelve years old. I was born in Ivory Coast of West Africa on August 1st. I go to the Broadway Center for the Arts and Academics (B.C.A.A) M.S 44 in 77th street. I like to play basketball. I am a real good basketball player. I have a jumper and I take it in easily. That’s not the only thing I am good at. I am a very good artist. I could draw anyone or any thing if I try very hard. I have only been here in the Harlem Live since Wednesday, October 16, 2002. I am the youngest of everybody in there. I live in an apartment building on 112th Street and St Nicholas Ave. I live with my mom, dad, sisters , and one brother. I live in a nuclear family, which is an family that contains brothers, sisters, mother, and father. 

Seul Shakee

My name is Seul Shahkee. It means the only peaceful warrior. Originally from da DR but grew up in east Brooklyn.  I am a very athletic person. I play Bball like almost everyday. And swim as much as I can. I like to do a lot of stuff for fun! Besides sports, I like to go to the movies. Go bike riding or just chill and wild out. In some of my free and bored time, I like to go on the net and chat wit my peepz.  “Life iz CrAzY”  I have a very complex personality. I am not afraid to try out anything new. I may hesitate a little, but I am definitely not afraid! I am very friendly, . I like all types of music especially Rap, Hip-Hop and R&B. I always keep an open mind at all times. I have my good qualities and bad ones. Sometimes I act crazy, sometimes I am calm and quiet. But, at anytime you catch me, I am always fun to be with. Want to find out more about SkillZ or maybe just holla back and Spread sum luv? You can holla at me on AOL/AIM. My Screen Name is DangSkillZ

Death Was On Her Face

by Ismael Alverez

They say there are two things in life you cannot hide from, death and taxes. Well, I learned that death is a very real thing at a very early age. I grew up in Astoria, Queens, New York. I lived in the Queens Bridge and Ravenswood projects. To me it seemed like I was the only light skin Hispanic kid in an all black community. Like many kids I knew, I grew up without a father. Mommy was also dad. We were very poor. I lived with my mom and my two older sisters. When I was about six years old, my mother found out she had breast cancer. Through some time and with the proper treatment, the doctors removed the cancer and she was cured.

My mother, Noemi Colon was a fighter. She always did things just to make my sisters and I happy. She worked crazy hours to put food on the table and put my sisters and I through private school. When I was about ten years old, my mom called a big family meeting. All my uncles, aunts, and cousins were there. My mother announced that she got cancer again. I was young, so I really didn’t’t know what was going on at the time. I just knew that mommy had to go away to the hospital again.

My mother fought the disease, in and out of the hospital for many years. At thirteen, I knew what was happening to my mother. By this time, she was very sick. She had been in the hospital for a year straight. Death was on her face, but in my mind mommy would never die. She would always be there for me. I din’t’t go to the hospital to see her for some time. I could not bear to see my mom with tubes up her nose, not being able to talk. My older sister would go everyday. They would tell me that mom was asking for me and I would always say, “ I’ll go tomorrow.”

This one day I remember like it was yesterday. I was going to pick up my friend from school and on my way there I saw my sister Marina heading towards the train station. She told me “Izzy, I’m going to see mommy. She has been asking about you. You should come with me now to see her, plus it’s your turn to watch her.” Something inside me told me I should go, but instead, I told my sister I already had plans and that I promise I’d go the next day. That day I went out with my friends and got home late. As soon as I got home I went straight o bed. Around three or four in the morning my other sister Christina woke me up. 

When I woke up I saw Christina and a friend of the family in the living room where I always slept. Christina had tears in her eyes. He then said, “We have to go to the hospital. Mommy is dead.” I was half asleep, so I was like OK let’s go. I didn’t’t realize what was going on at that moment.

When I got to the hospital, we went straight to room 401. I walked in and I saw my family there around the bed. When they saw me, they all cleared away from the bed so I can see her. When I saw my mom motionless, that’s when it hit me. “Oh my God. My mom was dead.” 

They said I passed out, but I don’t remember that. I just remember going to the bed, kissing her, trying to wake her up, holding her, and touching her. Her body was warm, I remember, I cried and didn’t’t want to leave her.

The funeral was the next day. We had an open casket for two days. I didn’t’t cry at all at that time. The third day after her death, we buried her. I remember standing there at the ceremony not hearing a word the pastor was saying, just focusing on the casket and thinking of how things were going to be different. When they started to lower her body into the hole, that’s when I broke down. It was like my heart was being lowered with her. It was the worse feeling I ever had. My knees were weak,, I was tired and had my adrenaline rushing at the same time. Tears left my eyes like never before. I got a headache from so much crying. I should have gone that night to see mommy. I could have said good-bye, but I was selfish and didn’t.

After that day I grew emotionless to death. Nothing else mattered to me anymore. I saw people I loved die, but it did not affect me. My attitude now is that people come and people go. You just have to do what you have to do in order to make your time on Earth pleasant. 

City of Love

by Cameron Cook

Sometimes, you just need a change of mind. Change of scenery, people, mind-set. So, in 1992, my mother made a life-altering decision; it was time to move to a foreign country. The choice was relatively visceral; it would be St. Lucia, a small island in the West Indies. To move from my mother’s birthplace of Chicago, Illinois, we just threw a dart at a map (literally), sold all of our furniture to buy plane tickets, and left the country. My father had died when I was three years old, and my brother was one and a half in my hometown of Los Angeles, California; nothing was really binding us to the United States. 


Unfortunately, tropical promises of “Endless Summers” get old pretty fast, and before long France seemed like an interesting place to park our bohemian lifestyle for a while. I could go on for pages about my St. Lucian experiences, battling with oversized insects and eating enough chicken and rice for at least three lifetimes, but that is not the point of this piece. Another day perhaps. 

I first stepped foot on French soil in September 1995, in Nice. We had moved to a studio apartment for a few months in the near-by town of Cannes, where my aunt lived. She and my cousin were the only French people I knew at the time. 

Quasi-immediately, I was submerged into a totally different way of life: I turned on the TV, and didn’t understand a damn word, went to the shopping center, didn’t understand a damn word. It wasn’t only the language… I was perplexed by the average Frenchman’s in-born power to be constantly blasé; the slightest bump in the road of their carefully mapped out existence, and I thought they would spontaneously combust with anger. The food also, was quite a challenge (even though, I must say that escargot has become one of my favorite dishes). You know that scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta tells Samuel L. Jackson about his recent trip to Europe? Well, you actually can buy wine and beer at Mc Donald’s, and a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese is a “Royal with Cheese”. 

Want to know more about France? Check out the French Information Center

School was also a big huddle to over-come, of course. Since I hardly spoke a word of French upon my arrival, I had to repeat the 5th grade, an experience that proved itself highly positive, yet humbling, in a certain way, being a year older than everyone, on top of not speaking their language. But I learn quickly, thankfully, and graduated elementary school that summer with a somewhat perfect knowledge of the French language. 


I spent five long, border lining tedious years in Cannes. Don’t get me wrong, if you are a seventy-year-old retired shoe salesman, it’s probably the happening place to spend your twilight years, but as a young teenager, complete with puberty-caused insecurities and raging hormones, Cannes, with its Mediterranean way of life, inexistent night-life, two movie theaters, three record stores, one concert hall and Beverly Hills 90210 teen mentality, sheer boredom not fitting in were huge issues for me and my little circle of friends. Was it due to the very widespread French elitism, or just the same senseless drudge that every young person goes through during those delicate years? Maybe I’ll never know.


So, after Cannes lost its charm, my family and I headed north, to the flourishing capital of Paris. As soon as I stepped out of the cramped, red, typically French four seated car (did I mention we drove eight hours across country, four people and a cat? Thank God for Discmans…) I knew I had found my element. Paris is one of the most astonishing cities on the planet: the convenience of a big metropolitan, yet it still manages to preserve a little bit of quaintness. First of all, the city is among the most beautiful in Europe, if not in the world (try walking along the Seine at night, watching the bateaux-mouches go by) and little by little, Paris’ beauty can’t help but to rub off on you… soon, you find yourself prancing about Les Champs Elysees, the town’s grandest boulevard, just for the hell of it; walking around The Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero neighborhood that surrounds it, checking out parks and art houses; spending literally entire days at Beaubourg, my personal favorite place in Paris, buying postcards of your favorite photographers (in my case, Nan Goldin and Robert Mapplethorpe) and hanging around the museum there (I once spent five hours in an exposition on Surrealism, one of my favorite modern art movements). School was still somewhat of an issue, even though, as the French school system requires of every student, I had chosen a major in the 10th grade (you have the option of either Literature and Arts-what I took, obviously- Science and Economy) and my class was full of what I considered “my” people: the punks, the Goths, the rejects. The last years of high school are especially difficult in France; the work level is equivalent to that of a college sophomore in the USA. But I had found an environment that I could call my own, far away from the preppy, selfish mindset of Cannes. The work was hard, but the play made it all worthwhile.


Alas, my time in Paris was shorter than I would have liked: only two years, from 2000 to this summer, July 2002. Even though I now live in NYC, but sometimes I get a little homesick. Yes, even though I am an American citizen, I consider France the closest thing to a homeland that I have had the pleasure to experience. I plan to go back there soon, maybe have an apartment in Paris, live there for a while. As the French say on July 14th, their independence day, my independence day, in a way, Vive la France!

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Taylor Burgos

Hi ,my name is Taylor and I was born October 2, in 2009. Some of my activities that I do are karate, ballet, basketball, gymnastics, cheer leading, and dance.my favorite color is BLUE ,PURPLE, and PINK.My least favorite color is brown.I am in Harlem Live.My favorite food is pizza.

Justice King Johnson

Greetings my name is justice Johnson I was born on August 29 2007 in Bronx hospital my passion was previously researching vehicles but as I have lost interest in that I now have gone to Harlem live to seek a brand new passion that can keep me going for a long time in my life I go to Fredrick Douglass academy 1 and in sixth grade I can