NEW YORK (CBS 2) — The firefighters of New York City are called “New York’s bravest.” They certainly lived up to that description on 9/11 as 343 of them died on that dark day, including the fire department’s number one man in uniform.
CBS 2’s Chris Wragge recently met with his extraordinary family.
“I’m never not smiling when I’m coming to work,” Chris Ganci said.
Ganci’s firehouse is in Flatbush, Brooklyn — just a few miles away from his older brother Pete’s firehouse in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“This is definitely home away from home,” said Pete Ganci.
Chris is proud to say his company sees more action than any other firehouse in New York City, except for maybe his brother Pete’s — the legendary Engine 214 Ladder 111.
Their father Peter Ganci bravely fought fires a lifetime ago, before he became the highest ranking firefighter to die on 9/11.
“That’s where the void is, is all these things we want to share with him,” Chris said.
Chief of Department Peter Ganci directed the rescue of over 25,000 people out of the burning World Trade towers from a temporary command post on West Street.
“Like a lot of people who’s family was in it, I know to the exact second where he was killed,” Peter said.
After barely surviving the collapse of tower 2, Chief Ganci returned to his men to give them the order to evacuate tower 1.
“They found him around 3:30 in the afternoon,” Chris said.
Chief Ganci’s remains were recovered hours later beneath the rubble along with the radio that sent his last command. Less than a year after proudly joining his father in the fire department, Pete and his family had to say goodbye.
“It becomes tough because very quickly the memory fades. You miss his voice so…,” Peter said.
“So much stuff has happened in my life between now and then. We all got married, we all got kids now,” Chris said.
Chris was well on his way to a career in pharmaceutical sales and a graduate degree when his life changed course.
“A week after I graduated from NYU with my MBA I started at the New York City Fire Department,” Chris said. “9/11 was such a dark time and period of my life. Everything that revolved around it. This was the first like ray of sunshine that I had in my life.”
In the brotherhood and shared sacrifice of New York’s bravest, Pete and Chris feel closest to their father.
“Not only am I a fireman in his eyes, I’m a brother because that’s how we refer to each on this job,” Pete said.
“There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about my father. I think about him when I’m trying to fix something at my house. I think about what he would do or where he is right now — if he’s proud of me, if he’s proud of Pete. I’m pretty sure he is, I hope he is,” Chris said.
The mass card that Pete carries in his fire coat is creased and worn, but it’s a sign of a father’s bond so deep and strong, it can never be broken.
“I always say a little prayer. I always ask him just watch over me. Watch over Pete. Watch over the brothers here — make sure we all get home safe to our families. That’s the most important thing,” Chris said.
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