Sunday, August 16, 2015

Rookie of the Year

In New York City, for many families firefighting is the family business.  It is a calling that is passed down from generation to generation.  The family of Christopher Santora is one such FDNY family. 

Christopher Santora  had been in the FDNY for less than two months when - on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, he joined his brothers from Engine 54/Ladder 4 in roaring downtown from Times Square to help those at the World Trade Center who needed their assistance.  He was one of his house's fifteen casualties.  

Only twenty-three years old at the time of his death, Christopher Santora was the only son of Alexander and Maureen Santora.  The lone boy, raised in the company of four sisters.  His sister Patricia described Christopher as "the king of the castle"

He was single and, not surprisingly given his young age, still living at home with Mom and Dad at the family home in Long Island City when he died on September 11, 2001.   He had only recently just gotten into the family business - on Dad's side.  His two months as a member of the FDNY had been spent at Engine 54/Ladder 4.  On the last day of his life, he died responding to the first and only fire of his FDNY career.  He died responding to a fire that started when he was off-duty.  He had just returned home when he received a call about the attacks and he did what so many members of the FDNY did on that terrible morning:  he headed as fast as he could straight into the mouth of Hell.  

Prior to joining the FDNY, Christopher Santora had taught in the New York City Public School System.  He was not a physically big man, standing 5'8" tall, but he was athletic and he was fearless.  

In the wake of the death of their only son, Al and Maureen Santora established the Firefighter Christopher Santora Educational Scholarship Fund, which has awarded scholarships annually since 2005, including this year.    

There is no greater tragedy for a parent to endure than the death of a child.  Al and Maureen Santora have spent the past fourteen years not merely mourning their son's loss.  Instead they have spent it honoring the life he lived and the man that he was deprived of the chance to become.  In honoring his life, rather than merely mourning his death, they have ensured that his spirit endures.  They have ensured that who he was matters still - and not merely to them and to his family.  

And for that - their willingness to share him and to share their pain over losing him - we owe them our gratitude.  

-AK 

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