By Robert Pozarycki
The New York City Fire Department lost 343 members during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center — an unprecedented loss in the department’s history that claimed both firefighters who worked to save civilians and much of the ranking leadership.
And yet, nearly two decades removed from the tragedy, the Fire Department continues to lose active and retired members from illnesses related to their service during the massive, months-long recovery mission on “The Pile,” the remains of the collapsed World Trade Center.
To date, the Fire Department has lost 226 members due to World Trade Center-related illnesses, including various forms of cancer and respiratory disease. On Wednesday, the department paid tribute to 27 of these heroes lost during the past year by adding their names to the FDNY World Trade Center Memorial Wall at the department’s headquarters at Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center.
The loss of FDNY members to illnesses related to their participation in the rescue and recovery mission at Ground Zero has become so profound that the department had to expand the Memorial Wall for the first time since it was constructed in 2011.
“Our Department made a solemn promise to never forget the bravery and sacrifice of the 343 members who gave their lives on September 11th, and the growing list of heroes who have died due to illnesses related to their courageous work throughout the rescue and recovery effort,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. “Though we are unable to join in person this year to remember these 27 extraordinary individuals, we still pause to honor that promise by ensuring their memory lives on with their inclusion on our World Trade Center memorial wall.”
The following members’ names were added to the Memorial Wall:
- Firefighter Owen T. Carlock of Ladder Company 122, Brooklyn.
- Firefighter Robert M. Gless of Engine Company 329, Rockaway, Queens.
- Firefighter John B. O’Brien of Engine Company 329, Rockaway, Queens.
- Firefighter James J. Hurson of Engine Company 318, Brooklyn.
- Captain Robert E. Collis of Engine Company 304, Queens Village, Queens.
- Firefighter Joseph Walsh of Ladder Company 32, Bronx.
- Auto Mechanic James J. Sottile, FDNY Shops Bureau.
- Firefighter Joseph R. Losinno of Engine Company 302, Jamaica, Queens.
- Firefighter Robert B. Fitzgibbon of Engine Company 47, Morningside Heights.
- Firefighter Walter E. McKee of Battalion 39, Brooklyn.
- Firefighter John W. Boyle of Rescue 1, Manhattan.
- Firefighter Roger Espinal of Engine Company 320, Auburndale, Queens.
- Firefighter Richard J. Tanagretta of Rescue 5, Staten Island.
- Firefighter Andrew S. Gargiulo of Engine Company 160, Staten Island.
- Lieutenant Richard G. Estreicher of Engine Company 248, Brooklyn.
- Firefighter Clifford R. DiMuro of Ladder Company 137, Rockaway Park, Queens.
- Captain Dennis M. Gilhooly of Engine Company 67, Washington Heights.
- Firefighter Brian W. Casse of Engine Company 294, Richmond Hill, Queens.
- Firefighter Michael L. Feldman of Ladder Company 161, Brooklyn.
- Firefighter Richard B. Jones of Ladder Company 25, Upper West Side.
- Lieutenant Paul W. Deo Jr. of Engine Company 317, St. Albans, Queens.
- Firefighter Joseph A. Hatzelman of Engine Company 218, Brooklyn.
- Firefighter Daniel R. Foley of Rescue 3, Bronx.
- Battalion Chief of Dennis J. Moynihan of Battalion 18, Bronx.
- Firefighter John H. Marr of Engine Company 34, Midtown Manhattan.
- Lieutenant Kevin C. Dunn of Engine Company 251, Glen Oaks, Queens.
- Firefighter Paul J. Greco of Squad Company 270, Richmond Hill, Queens.
Honoring a heroic chief
In a related story, the Fire Department announced Tuesday a special honor for the highest-ranking member of the department who died in the 9/11 attacks.
The FDNY renamed its James Gordon Bennett Medal in honor of Peter J. Ganci Jr., who was the FDNY’s chief of department when he responded to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The medal is the highest honor a firefighter can receive for bravery and valor demonstrated in the line of duty.
No one demonstrated bravery and valor during his time at the FDNY more than Ganci, who held every uniformed rank during his 33-year career and received numerous citations for bravery along the way.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, according to Newsday, Ganci rushed to the World Trade Center after learning of the crash of American Airlines Flight 11 into the North Tower. He arrived just in time to see the hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower, and established a command post there.
Ganci was in the South Tower’s basement when it collapsed at 9:59 a.m. that morning, but he managed to dig himself out and worked to set up another command post nearby. Newsday reported that he rebuffed orders to evacuate; other firefighters overheard him say, at one point, “I’m not leaving my men.” He died in the collapse of the North Tower at 10:29 a.m.
While acknowledging Ganci’s incredible, selfless work, Nigro noted that the FDNY also wanted to disassociate itself from Bennett, a former newspaper publisher who endowed the original medal more than 150 years ago, who had held “deeply racist beliefs and used his newspaper to repeatedly express hateful views in full support of slavery.”
“Our highest honor for bravery to a Firefighter or Fire Officer should be named for an individual who swore an oath to serve others and who once crawled down a hallway like all our Firefighters have done to search for New Yorkers trapped by fire,” Nigro said. “It should be named for a legendary Chief who is still revered by all of us so many years after his death.”
The Ganci Medal will be awarded for the first time at a socially-distanced Medal Day ceremony scheduled to take place later this year.