The new green and white street sign, Captain John Vigiano Memorial Avenue, is modest — in keeping with the hero whose name it bears, enshrining the former FDNY firefighter's ties to Deer Park, as well as his two sons who perished while trying to save lives on 9/11.
"It's the American tragedy; it's the American dream," said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).
On Saturday, the Town of Babylon made official the renaming of a portion of Long Island Avenue in Deer Park in honor of John Vigiano, who retired in 1998 and died of cancer in July 2018.
"John was a tough guy," King said, reflecting on Vigiano's immense bravery despite the unspeakable grief and horror of losing his only children, his extraordinary career and his exceptional generosity that led him to organize visits and outings for soldiers wounded in Gulf War battles at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
"If he disagreed with you, he would let you know," King said, recalling President George W. Bush, who met with Vigiano several times and nicknamed him "John the Big."
King spoke at the ceremony, attended by the family, Democrats County Executive Steve Bellone and Babylon Town supervisor Rich Schaffer, a few hundred FDNY firefighters, bagpipers, friends and dignitaries. His wife, Jan Vigiano, was also on hand and talked about her late husband's efforts to honor his sons' memory.
The FDNY officials who spoke included Capt. Mark Gregory, who served with Vigiano's elder son, Firefighter John T. Vigiano II, at Brooklyn's Ladder 132.
The younger son, NYPD Emergency Service Unit officer, Joseph, was based in Harlem. Their grandfather also was a firefighter. "It's a family legacy of service," said King.
Asked Schaffer: "How could you go on when you lost both of your sons?" Instead of succumbing to despair, he said, "That made him stronger; he was going to do everything he could to pay tribute to them each and every day."
Sometimes, Bellone said, families break up after the kinds of tragedy that struck the Vigianos. "Not this family, not the Vigianos," he said. "Of all the things he's done, this is the one I most admire," he said, for holding his family and friends together.
"We must remember who they are and what they did," Bellone said, "because they represent the best of us."
Parts of Grand Boulevard and Lake Avenue, which run parallel and directly south of Long Island Avenue, previously were renamed after Joseph and John Jr.
Referring to their father, who forged his mother's name to enlist in the Marines before joining the FDNY — where he would receive the last rites twice in 36 years of battling blazes — Bellone said: "As we dedicate this street, he will join his boys in the community he loved." He added: "He will be here forever."