Today is Memorial Day. We honor our war dead today for the sacrifice they made for us and for our freedoms. Today I also choose to honor Peter J. Ganci, who died in an undeclared war - a war of hatred. On September 11, 2001, Pete died making the ultimate sacrifice.
The war against the United States was engaged long before 9/11. Every act of terrorism is an act of war, so I choose to remember Pete Ganci today in the way that one remembers a war hero.
My father, quoted in the book Out of the Blue: The Story of September 11, 2001, from Jihad to Ground Zero, By Richard Bernstein and the staff of the New York Times.
"Firefighters, the good ones anyway, live to do a good job at the right places - that's all you want to do," said Angelo Catalano, a firefighter who served in the same company as Ganci when both of them were young. "And Pete hated the guys who were skaters."
"Some officers who rise in the ranks have never paid their dues," Catalano said. "You see guys running the show who really don't understand. But Pete paid his dues."
Ganci was the kind of guy that all the other guys wanted to be photographed with. His old collegues at Ladder 124, where he first made his reputation, had bragging rights because they had served with "The Chief" when he was a mere lieutenant. When Ganci went to the national fire chiefs' conclaves in other cities, he was treated like a movie star. "It was as if God himself walked in the door," Catalano said......Firemen see their ladder and engine companies and their rescue squads as their families. "You're close when you fight a fire," McCarthy said. "You'd rather see yoruself hurt than the guy next to you, honestly." And Pete, in this sense, was the perfect familly man.
Looking forward to his retirement, Ganci and [his wife] Kathleen bought a condominium in Florida and they expected to begin using it soon. Ganci planned to play a lot of golf at the nearby East Lake Woodlands Country Club. But up to September 11, Ganci, busy as always, had nevef once visited it. On [one] Sunday when he went clamming with [colleague] Dan Nickola, he was debating with himself about the future, knowing that he wanted to keep going as a firefighter a bit longer, while his family wanted him to retire. But two days later, on September 11, he was up early, as always, and off to work.
Today, weather permitting, I will attend a ceremony where the Farmingdale, Long Island Post Office will be renamed the "Peter J. Ganci, Jr., Post Office Building."
On this day, I will also remember every single soldier who died so I can live free.
Yes, most of us will have parties and barbecues today after we attend parades and ceremonies and listen to speeches. We wil bow our heads in rememberance and some of us will pray and some of us will give silent thanks.
There's nothing wrong with going home afterwards to spend the day with family and friends, having a picnic or celebrating the coming summer.
Just remember what this day is for. When you raise that first cold one to your lips, give a toast to those who this holiday is for. Remember their families, as well.
When you exercise any of your freedoms today, remember those who fought and died so you can enjoy them.
Remember every victim of terrorism against this country for they too are casualties of war.
As stated by a very compassionate person, "The best Memorial to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in our defense is the one you must construct in your heart; the one you look at each day, however briefly, on your way around the mundane chores, the necessary work, perhaps even the heroic efforts you perform."
And another quote: "They did not fear to give up their lives for our liberty. So in undying gratitude should we be sure to never give up our liberty for fear."