A few curious people passing the Paterson Plank Bridge over Route 3 on May 31 may have wondered what firefighters were doing on the wide sidewalk there. Indeed, many people in Town Hall weren't aware of the quiet ceremony that members of the north end's Fire Rescue Company No. 1 and Engine Company No. 2 were conducting. "It was a private thing," said First Assistant Fire Chief Robert Cordes. "We just needed to mark the moment for ourselves." This was in sharp contrast to the hundreds of firefighters, family members, town officials and other concerned citizens who turned out in the rain last summer to mourn the June, 1999 passing of firefighter Joseph Tagliareni, Jr., who succumbed at age 34 to a massive heart attack after clinging to life for 13 days. Tagliareni, who some town workers described as "the kind of guy who would help anyone," suffered the massive heart attack while rushing to put out a car fire on the New Jersey Turnpike. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and the owner of a Secaucus-based trucking company, Tagliareni served as a volunteer firefighter for 16 years, leaving behind a wife and a year and half-old son. A year later, people passing the spot halfway across the bridge didn't know what the marker meant, although people regularly walking past it said they stopped often to examine the cross made of blue carnations, a bit of blue ribbon, and the Styrofoam. In placing the memorial on May 31, 2000, firefighters sought no publicity, marking the moment in history with silence and memories, each recalling the last heroic act their fellow firefighter made before succumbing to heart failure. Each seemed to recall the Memorial Day Turnpike Fire and how Tagliareni managed to get to the firehouse first, jumped behind the wheel and drove the vehicle towards the distant Turnpike fire. Within four blocks of the firehouse, Tagliareni sensed something wrong. As the vehicle headed east on Paterson Plank Road and neared the Route 3 bridge, Tagliareni complained of chest pains. He pulled over and got out. "He had driven about four blocks and turned to Robert Santori who was seated next to him in the passenger's seat and said: 'I think we'd better switch, I might be having a heart attack,'" Town Administrator Anthony Iacono said. "Four steps and about 30 seconds later, he had a massive heart attack." Trained in CPR and First Responder techniques, his fellow firefighters immediately began cardiopulmonary resuscitation until an ambulance arrived. Tagliareni was then rushed to Meadowlands Hospital where Emergency Room doctors worked on him for more than 45 minutes. "They had him to the hospital within six minutes," Iacono said. "They shocked him 22 times and pronounced him dead three times during that time." While he was eventually stabilized, he never regained consciousness, and on June 13, 1999 Tagliareni died. "I see him as a hero because if he hadn't had the good sense to stop the truck, within another 30 seconds we could have had a devastating tragedy," Iacono said. "If he had had the heart attack while driving, the rig could have plunged off the bridge into on-coming traffic on Route 3." Although the town responded with a fundraiser for the family last year, Chief Cordes said the blue cross was a monument meant for the members of the fire company who had worked with Tagliareni. One woman, passing the memorial this week, said she had wondered about the cross. She said she had known about the incident, but had not realized that the cross marked the very spot where Tagliareni had pulled the vehicle over in order to keep it from crashing.