Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The King of Gilgo Beach

Firefighters have a different notion of  'light duty' than lawyers do.  On September 11, 2001, Lt. Geoffrey Guja of Battalion 43 was working at the FDNY's headquarters in Brooklyn, on light duty, as he rehabbed from an injury.  The view of the Twin Towers on fire at HQ, across the East River, was both breathtaking and heartbreaking.  

Lt. Guja took a subway into Lower Manhattan and hustled over to 10 House, which was located in the Towers' shadow, to grab gear and to join the fight.  He was on light duty.  He was not obligated to fight any fire - let alone that fire.  His status mattered not.  The fight was where he was needed and it was to the fight that he headed as fast as he could.  He died while engaged in it, alongside 342 brothers of the FDNY.    

A thirteen-year-veteran of the FDNY, Lt. Guja, 47, lived in Lindenhurst with his wife Debbie and his two stepdaughters, Kelly and Jamie.  His passion (aside from the three women in his life) was his 43-foot houseboat that he kept docked at Gilgo Beach.  Each year, on the 4th of July, he and the Guja women would take a cruise to the Statue of Liberty.  Debbie referred to her husband as "the King of Gilgo Beach".   

Prior to joining the FDNY, Geoffrey Guja spent fifteen years working for Long Island Lighting Company.  While a member of the FDNY, he attained his R.N. and he worked part-time as a registered nurse at Mercy Hospital in Rockville Center.  He enjoyed making people laugh and smile as much as he valued saving their lives.  So much so in fact that Debbie made sure to have placed on his grave a flower replica of his beloved chicken costume that he would wear on special occasions.  

In the March 18, 2002 issue of New York Magazine, Lt. Guja's stepdaughter, Jamie, contributed an essay that - if it does not break your heart at least a little then you might want to consider accompanying Dottie and Toto on their next trek to Oz.  The photograph that accompanied the essay, of a sixteen-year-old girl dressed in firefighting gear, is heart-wrenching in and of itself.  

Lt. Geoffrey Guja - FDNY
Battalion 43


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