Friday, June 24, 2016

True Blood

Give blood but it could cost more than your dignity
Give blood, parade your pallor in iniquity
Give blood, they will cry and say they're in our debt
Give blood, but then they'll sigh and they will soon forget.
- Pete Townshend 

As it turns out, Pete, they will not always soon forget.  As it turns out, FDNY Battalion Chief Lawrence Stack was not forgotten.  Not even for one minute.  Not once in almost fifteen years.  

Battalion Chief Stack left his firehouse in Brooklyn on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, in order to respond to the World Trade Center.  It took almost fifteen years, but this past weekend, he finally was able to make it home.

On that terrible Tuesday morning, Battalion Chief Stack, at age fifty-eight a thirty-three-year veteran of the FDNY, which he had joined following his six years of service to his country (including a tour of Vietnam) as a member of the United States Navy, was in his office in Brooklyn, working on a report of the deaths of three members of the FDNY who had died in the line of duty on June 17, 2001, when all hell broke loose in Lower Manhattan.  He was not ordered to respond to the World Trade Center.  He was, however, programmed to do so.   

Upon his arrival at the scene, he did what it is he did best - he rescued those in danger, including two FDNY Lieutenants who had been trapped in the collapse of the South Tower.  When the North Tower collapsed, he was killed.  He had remained behind - after leading others to safety - to await assistance moving a man whose leg was badly injured and who could not, himself, move.  

Battalion Chief Stack is one of one hundred twenty-seven members of the FDNY whose bodies were never recovered from Ground Zero.  In his case, only his turnout coat was found. His wife, Theresa, and the couple's two sons, Michael and Brian - each of whom has followed his father's footsteps into the family business (Lt. Michael Stack and FF Brian Stack are both members of the FDNY) had no remains to bury. 

As it turned out, shortly before he died, Battalion Chief Stack had participated in a blood drive for a young child in need of a bone marrow transplant.  Recently, Theresa Stack and her family learned that two vials of Battalion Chief Stack's blood still existed.  Two vials of blood might not seem like a lot to the uninformed but, to the FDNY, they constituted more than enough remains to bury Battalion Chief Stack with full departmental honors.  

One week ago today, on what would have been the Stacks' forty-ninth wedding anniversary, and almost fifteen years since that awful Tuesday morning in September when he had called her as he headed over the Brooklyn Bridge to tell her that he loved her and not to worry about making dinner that night, Theresa Stack said goodbye to her husband.   It took him a whole hell of a lot longer than he or she ever could have reasonably imagined that it would, but on Friday, June 17, 2016, he finally made it home.    

An arrival that - even on an otherwise sad occasion - was worthy of a celebration.  

Welcome home, Chief.  
FDNY Battalion Chief Lawrence Stack
End of Watch:  September 11, 2001


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