Thursday, September 22, 2011

Of Little Boy Blue and Moon Men - Lesson V

Today is the birthday of one of my favorite people. It has been my pleasure and privilege really to have Lonnie Wojtasinski call me HER friend for close to two decades now. One day, one of us will write a book about our adventures in the Wild West of the law, which was the period of time we each worked at Frost & Rhodes in Plainfield, New Jersey. As Tom Petty might sing, "Oh the stories we could tell." They are stories - if they are to be told at all - to be told on a another day. The Polish Princess celebrates another trip around the Sun today. Being inherently cheap, I will do anything and everything to avoid investing in a stamp - especially since now my sis is USPS Emeritus. Happy Birthday Jolanta....or should I say, "z okazji urodzin!"

I do well what it is I do for a living. I do not mean to sound immodest but I more than hold up my end doing what it is I do to earn my daily bread. I enjoy what I do. That being said, I lobbied long and hard against either Suzanne or Rob pursuing the same career arc. Much longer and harder than necessary as it turned out since neither had an interest in it.

That is not of course how it is in some families. In some families, a father reaches a point in his life where the bathroom mirror reveals not one but three reflections every morning. Those of his father and of his son flank his own. "And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me/He'd grown up just like me/My boy was just like me." Cradles and cats. The circle of Life.

Firefighter John Vigiano II was a member of Ladder 132. He grew up in Deer Park, New York. He was the son of FDNY Captain John Vigiano and the older brother of NYPD Detective Joseph Vigiano. When FF Vigiano joined the FDNY in 1991, becoming a third generation New York City Firefighter, he carried Badge 3436, which had been his grandfather's. FF Vigiano and his brother Joseph both earned the rank of Eagle Scout. The two brothers were so tight and so close that although John was two years older than Joseph, when younger brother asked older brother to wait for him so that they could attain the honor of Eagle Scout together, he did. FF Vigiano was a devout New York Rangers fan. He was sadly only 36 years old when he died on September 11, 2001, and was survived by his wife Maria and his two little girls, Nicolette and Ariana.

Tragically, his younger brother Joseph, 34 years old, did not survive him. On that terrible morning NYPD Detective Joseph Vigiano, a member of ESU Squad Number 2 also responded to the World Trade Center. He and his brother were doing what they loved to do, what they had watched their father do and what their father's father had done as well. They were helping others. That selflessness cost both men their lives that morning. NYPD Detective Joseph Vigiano died with his brother at the World Trade Center. Detective Vigiano was survived by his wife Kathleen and their three young sons, Joseph, James and John.

Firefighter James C. Riches of Engine 4 had only been on the job at the FDNY for roughly eighteen months at the time of his death on September 11, 2001. Prior to joining the FDNY, Firefighter Riches had been Officer Riches of the NYPD, assigned to Brooklyn South Narcotics. He was 29 years of age. FF Riches' father is retired FDNY Deputy Chief Jim Riches. It took the family nine months to recover FF Riches' body from the rubble of the World Trade Center but when they did, Deputy Chief Riches and his three other sons - all of whom apparently became firefighters after 09/11 - carried him out of there and brought him home. In a May 5, 2011 interview with WINS Radio, Deputy Chief Riches said that his son's body had been found in the North Tower, “When we did find his body down at Ground Zero, there was a stretcher with a woman right nearby his body, so you know he was helping her and consoling her all the way down, I’m sure. That’s just the way he was.

Firefighter Thomas Schoales of Engine 4 held a position in his family to which I can relate. FF Schoales was the youngest of six children, which made him of course the once and forever "baby brother". His father, Battalion Chief Edward Schoales, apparently was his bunk mate when FF Schoales first joined the ranks of the FDNY and was assigned to Engine 83 in the Bronx. Prior to joining the FDNY, FF Schoales - who had turned 27 in August 2001 - spent three years as a member of the NYPD prior to switching gears and careers and moving over to the FDNY. His is a family of public service, including not only his father but his brothers Daniel and Edward, Jr. as well. As a member of Engine 4, FF Schoales was one of the first first responders into the North Tower. It is believed that he was in the lobby of the North Tower - having helped evacuate people on floors 30 through 40 - when it collapsed.

Sunday's Tunnel Towers Run encourages participants to "follow the footsteps" of FF Stephen Siller. Following the footsteps is something of a tradition in the FDNY. And even though many who had gave their lives on September 11, 2001, one suspects that never for a moment did they regret the path they had chosen. Or the footsteps they had followed.

-AK

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