Quite often when we seek ways to be charitable during the giving season, we feel compelled to somehow help right a wrong or heal the hurt in places and situations far removed from us – places like New Orleans, China, India. And yet, this particular heartache has happened – or rather, is happening – right here in our own backyard. Right here in Middle Village. And it could have happened to any of us.
Just a few short months ago, 27-year-old Priscilla Mangaran was sitting on top of the world. She had a dedicated, hard-working husband, Dave (aka “DC,” an Emergency Medical Technician at the FDNY’S Battalion 35, underneath Woodhull Hospital); two cute-as-a-button little kids, David and Brooklyn; and, although no one but she and her husband knew it at the time, a third little one on the way. You may know Priscilla, she and her Mom used to work at MATSON’S DELI in Middle Village. For years, it was the family business of sorts for them and their extended family. In any case, as the weather started turning a bit warmer, and the calendar pages finally turned to June – with her birthday and her 9th wedding anniversary just around the corner – Priscilla Mangaran was looking forward to a pretty bright future, a future that she and her husband had been dreaming of since they first started dating.
All of that changed, however – in the cruelest blink of an eye imaginable – during the early morning hours of June 7, 2008. After clocking out after his overnight shift at Battalion 35, Mangaran was summoned back by his lieutenant, as Priscilla tells us, and told that he had to return and move the motorcycle he’d left at the firehouse, that he absolutely couldn’t leave it there. (Mangaran had needed the use of another vehicle for the preparations for his daughter’s birthday party that night.) Dutifully, Mangaran obeyed the request, got a ride back to the firehouse, and proceeded to remove the bike from the premises and head home. As he was traveling through the intersection of Flushing and Cypress Avenues, heading east towards Metropolitan at approximately 8:30 am, a mini-van traveling in the opposite direction made an illegal left turn in an effort to cut him off. (As per the police report, the van’s driver “thought [he] could beat him.”) Mangaran was unable to avoid the collision, and in continuing on unawares, the truck ran him over as well. With such devastating damage to his vital organs – his chest had been crushed – Mangaran was never able to recover… although he fought to stay alive valiantly for hours, finally succumbing at around 4:00 pm. That it was Priscilla and David’s 9th anniversary that day made his loss even more painful. And that it was also his baby girl Brooklyn’s 1st birthday even moreso. In fact, Dave and Priscilla had initially decided to tell the family she was pregnant at Brooklyn’s birthday party. Now, Priscilla did so in the hospital’s waiting room. They’d decided upon the baby’s name only the day before... Geovanni.
Surely, there must be a special place in heaven for those among us who dedicate themselves to the service of others. It was this notion that provided at least some small amount of comfort to Priscilla and her family in the days that followed. The fact that Dave had helped so many in his all-too-brief life. The fact that he had made friends wherever he went. The fact that when a man like Dave – tireless, selfless, eternally upbeat – leaves his mark on the world, there is just no way that he is soon forgotten, not in the slightest. “He wasn’t just my son-in-law,” says Priscilla’s father Joe Fawcett, also a life-long EMT. “He was actually more like a son.”
Unfortunately for Priscilla and her family, they can’t help feeling that the other family that Dave proudly called his own – that of the FDNY and the city that he lived to serve – seemed to turn their backs on them almost instantaneously, and just when they needed it most.
While EMT colleagues of Mangaran’s dug into their own pockets to put together a collection for his family – each one giving as much as they could – department officials told Priscilla that since Dave had still been on probation – a “probie” as it were – no FDNY benefits would accrue to her. No life insurance. No health insurance. Nothing. “The only thing the fire department offered was therapy,” Priscilla told the Queens Ledger. “I went two times in the first three weeks after his death. Then [one day] I was called to the front desk – I’m waiting to be seen – and told that I can’t be seen because his insurance is revoked.” Not only that, but the department to this day has yet to release David Mangaran’s final paycheck, the salary he’d earned for his final week of service.
“They haven’t given me anything,” continues Priscilla. “[No] medical assistance… no doctor visits, nothing.”
Today, while she sorts out her financial situation, Priscilla Mangaran has resigned herself to moving herself and her family back in with her parents. She’s due to deliver the child her husband DC will never know, Geovanni Mangaran, on December 12th. For anyone who’s lost a spouse or a parent near the holidays, the virtually unbearable burden is two-fold: how to in some way deal with the inescapable void that that loved one’s loss has left, that silent empty chair at the dinner table; and secondly, how to in some way put a smile on the faces of the little ones, how on earth to commemorate any semblance of a season of joy, when so much joy has already been robbed from them.
And yet, with the holidays almost upon us, Priscilla’s wishes are not for Christmas presents for her children, or even financial assistance to help her get back on her feet and find her own place, but simply this… a headstone for her husband’s grave. A way to garner the late Dave Mangaran some small measure of respect, respect that far too few of his friends, far too few of his colleagues have afforded him these past six months. Just something so that DC’s final resting place need not be shrouded in anonymity, in stark contrast to the vibrant, energetic, and selfless life he led for his far-too-short 27 years.
We’ve all got it rough this year, that’s a given. And some of us rougher than others, no question. But as you gather together this holiday season, whether it’s with friends, or with family, give a thought, if you would, to the plight of Priscilla Mangaran and others like her.
And if you think you could find it in your heart to help Priscilla and her kids out with a small donation, would you please contact either Louise Saieva at MATSON’S DELI, (718) 894-6307 or Nick D’Arienzo at the QUEENS LEDGER, (718) 426-7200. It would certainly go a long way towards helping to ease what can only be described as unspeakable loss, and towards honoring Dave’s memory, as well.