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911-anniversary

Memories of John Napolitano

Father: We live 9/11 every day

I am the father of Lt. John P. Napolitano, FDNY Rescue 2, who also served the people of Long Island with the Lakeland Fire Department for 16 of his short 33 years.

He started as a junior volunteer, held every rank, including chief of the department, and then one of their commissioners. As we approach the 10-year anniversary of that day in September, for myself and I would guess many others -- especially those of us that lost loved ones, those who were rescued by our firefighters and police officers, and those who participated in the search -- those days of September, we live that day, each and every day of our lives.

For me, the World Trade Center, no matter where I am, is a place that I never left -- perhaps that is the way it should be.

My son decided early in life that he was going to help people. In high school, he became a junior volunteer firefighter with the Lakeland Fire Department. He took EMT and paramedic courses, scuba training -- every type of class that had anything to do to protecting life and property, and when he was appointed to the fire department of New York City, he continued his quest to be the best that he could at his chosen profesion. Everything that he learned he shared with others to help them with their Careers and also help the with promotion exams.

I have met over the years several firefighters who have told me that my son, John, was an important factor in their success on the job. So many firefighters shared personal stories with me, of how professional he was, how he did big things in a quiet, unassuming way.

One firefighter, now a lieutenant, took me aside one day and said that he wanted me to know something about John. He told me about a building collapse in Brooklyn where several firefighters were trapped. My son was with Rescue 2 at the time. It was a much-publicized rescue and my son and others from Rescue 2 were later decorated. My son never spoke about that day. Not all the firefighters pulled from that building survived, despite the heroic efforts of Rescue 2. The lieutenant told me that he was there that day and saw the rescue. He told me that they all did a great job, but he said to me: "Mr. Nap, John was like a snake,crawling into places that no one could get too, finding those guys, nothing would stop him."

He paused for a second as he relived that day.

"When I got back to the house," he said, "I told the guys that if ever I am trapped in a collapsing building, go get Napolitano."

This is just one of the stories of the 10 years worth that I take with me every day. One of those firefighters that my son and his team saved that day in Brooklyn died with my son on Sept. 11, 2001. His name is Captain Timothy Stackpole.

My son was an excellent firefighter, but before he became a hero to America, he was a Hero to us, his family and friends that loved him. He was a trusted and loyal friend, a devoted husband and father, a caring "big" brother to his two Sisters and a loving son to his mother and I.

He made being a father the most wonderful adventure and he would do anything for me.

When I heard about the attacks that day and the World Trade Center, I didn't know that my son was there. I thought that my son was at home but I knew that he would be responding so I called his home, but kept on getting a busy signal. I wanted to tell him to be careful, don't take any risks, don't be a hero. My son loved me, and I feel his love every second of every day, but I know that he would have never listened to me.

Myself and my best and lifelong friend Lenny, both of us former NYPD, were able to participate in the search. We lost Lenny's brother also, L.t John Crisci from the FDNY. Also missing were my son's childhood friends from the neighborhood, police officer Glen Pettit, firefighter Peter Brennan, and firefighter William Mahoney.

We saw the horror and we saw the courage of our loved ones. It has been 10 years, but for us, Sept. 11, 2001 will always be today.

John Napolitano, Wellington, Fla. (formerly of Ronkonkoma)

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