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Review: '60 Minutes' honors FDNY members who died on 9/11

NYC Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro and Scott Pelley

NYC Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro and Scott Pelley at 9/11 Museum on CBS News' "60 Minutes." Credit: CBSNews/60 MINUTES

SERIES "60 Minutes" Season 54 premiere

WHEN|WHERE Sunday at 7:30 p.m. on CBS/2

WHAT IT'S ABOUT "60 Minutes" will devote its entire 54th season premiere (Sunday at 7:30 p.m., CBS/2) to the members of the FDNY who died on 9/11, and also to their children, who joined the department after their deaths. These include Long Islanders Chris and Peter Ganci, sons of FDNY Chief Peter Ganci. Some of the stories "60 Minutes" retells are painfully, bitterly familiar but others less so. According to press notes, this marks "the first time viewers will hear first person accounts from so many 9/11 New York firefighters in one place." This broadcast is anchored by Scott Pelley and produced by Maria Gavrilovic.

MY SAY To anyone paying attention — or anyone wanting to — these past couple of weeks have been difficult ones on TV. Launching the memorials in late August was NatGeo's searing "9/11: One Day in America '' (now streaming on Hulu) while "60 Minutes" wraps with this. It's equally hard to watch — equally essential to watch as well.

A total of 343 firefighters died on 9/11, and another 226 from 9/11-related illnesses in the years since. Some 23 battalion chiefs responded that day, 19 were killed. Chief of the FDNY, Peter J. Ganci Jr. — Massapequa's own — survived the collapse of the south tower at 9:59 a.m., but died when the north tower fell at 10:28. He had refused to leave his command post.

"He was going to stay and see the job through," says his son, Peter Ganci 3rd, now a captain with the FDNY. His other son, Chris, a battalion chief, tells "60 Minutes," "he wouldn't have been able to live with himself" if he had left.

This "60 Minutes"' coda meanwhile explores another statistic — itself a quirk of FDNY culture that explains the bond of generation to generation, of father to son and daughter. Sixty-five children of members who perished on 9/11 have gone through the FDNY Training Academy on Randall's Island. Under these particular circumstances, Pelley asks a reasonable enough question: Why?

"It's who we are, our passion, our upbringing," explains Josephine Smith, of Selden, who became the first daughter of an FDNY responder to go through the so called "Rock." Smith's father, Kevin, was a member of Hazardous Materials Company 1, which shared its quarters with Squad 288 in Maspeth — 19 men lost on 9/11.

Mike Florio of Bellmore was 6 when his father, John Florio of Engine Company 214 died. Now with Ladder Co. 111, he tells "60 Minutes'' that his service "makes me feel closer to him that day."

Pelley wonders whether Chris Ganci — he now lives in Massapequa Park, his brother Peter in Farmingdale — regrets a life decision to forego business school. "You said you will never ever be rich …"

"But I will always be happy," says Ganci, interrupting him. "It's hard to explain to people [but] it gives me a sense of pride I've never felt any place else."

"60 Minutes'' begins this special tribute with the observation that the sacrifice of those 343 FDNY members on 9/11 "was the greatest act of gallantry ever bestowed on an American city." But they are words to close with too — words to savor, remember, especially to explain Pete Ganci and all those just like him, including his own sons.

BOTTOM LINE Moving and important, as if it could be otherwise.

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