Obituaries: Anil Aggrawal's Internet Journal of Forensic Medicine
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Anil Aggrawal's Internet Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology

Volume 2, Number 2, July-December 2001


 Peter J Ganci, Chief of Department, Fire Department, New York City

 I don't think any of us will ever forget the terrible scenes in New York City, relayed to us live on television on the 11th September. We all watched with disbelief as the horror unfolded and then it was repeated over and over again. The pictures of the Twin Towers burning and then collapsing from the Manhattan skyline sending great dust clouds hundreds of metres into the sky and rolling down the streets of Manhattan will certainly be with me forever.
Peter J Ganci
(Born October 1946 - Died 11th September 2001)

343 firefighters were killed that day in the terrorist attack. The Chief of New York City Fire Department Peter J Ganci was amongst the dead.

I went out to New York City a week after the attacks, where I saw the devastation for myself. I heard accounts of tremendous bravery by firefighters under the worst fire and building collapse conditions that anyone could have possibly encountered. Many other people including Police officers, Emergency Medical Service personnel and civilians, carried numerous acts of bravery that day. The true extent of this bravery will never be fully known.

Firefighters throughout the world all recognise the feeling of running into a dangerous situation when everyone else is running out. It is partly this that makes us firefighters proud to do what we do.

I salute the firefighters of New York City, little wonder you are known as 'New York's Bravest'

I managed to spend some time with Chief Ganci's wife and family as well as with colleagues from the Fire Department of New York City. Fire Marshal Steve Mosiello was the Chief's assistant and close personal friend and he gave me this brief account of what happened.

Chief Ganci was in his office at MetroTech in Brooklyn when he heard that a plane had hit the Twin Towers. He shouted down the corridor for Steve who was also his driver and told him what had happened. The Chief of Operations joined them and they left together for Manhattan in the Chief's car. They could see clearly the devastation ahead of them and Chief Ganci ordered the mobilisation of a 5th Alarm from his car as they crossed the Brooklyn Bridge.

Having set up a command post, Chief Ganci, Steve and others with him took refuge in a basement garage as the South Tower collapsed. Chief Ganci had been partially buried by debris and dust after the collapse and he dug himself out and moved his command post well beyond the North Tower. This single act saved many lives. He ordered those around him, including the Mayor and Fire Commissioner, to leave the immediate area but insisted on staying with his firefghters to continue the rescues and evacuation. He said that he had committed his firefighters and would not leave them. He was killed along with many of his firefighters when the North Tower collapsed shortly afterwards.

Steve was with the Chief until just before the tower collapsed. Chief Ganci had ordered him away and then spoke to him by radio. As the tower collapsed he lost contact. He knew where the Chief had been buried and he directed rescue crews to the exact spot and they removed debris by hand until they recovered his body.

Pete Ganci was 54 years old. He was a firefighter through and through and was so proud of the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY). When asked by strangers what his profession was, he would simply reply: "I'm a fireman."

In February of this year my wife Ingrid and I stayed with Pete and Kathy at their house on Long Island. Pete showed me round their impressive new headquarters in Brooklyn. We even went to a fire in the city centre.

Pete was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne and then joined the FDNY where he served for 33 years. He was a Firefighter in New York in the sixties and modestly described those hectic years in the Bronx and Brooklyn as 'crazy'. Pete was also a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Farmingdale on Long Island.

He was appointed to FDNY on September 14, 1968 and was assigned to Engine 92 then went to Ladder 111. His climb to the top:
Lieutenant, Ladder 124, 1977
Captain, Ladder 18, 1983
Battalion Chief, Battalion 57, August 1987
Deputy Assistant Chief, Chief in Charge of Fire Marshals 1994
Assistant Chief of Operations, 1996
Chief of Operations, 1997
Acting Chief of Department, March 1998 to October 1999
Chief of Department 1999

Pete had been decorated for bravery many times.

He was a keen golfer and had a passion for clamming and crabbing from his own boat, which was moored not far from his home. He enjoyed life and was a family man. Pete and Kathy have three children: Peter, Christopher and Danielle. Peter, 27, is also a firefighter in New York City. Christopher is 25 and works for a major drug company. Danielle is 22 and is a student at university undertaking a Masters degree. Pete was very proud of his family.

Pete first came over to the UK in 1998, when he was a very popular speaker at 'Fire 98' in Glasgow. He was charismatic and straight talking with few airs and graces. He met many people from the UK Fire Service and often spoke of the great hospitality of the British fire service. He visited Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service a number of times and met many of our firefighters.

Pete and Kathy were looking forward to coming over to Lancashire again at the end of October. Pete was going to be a speaker at the Forum of Arson Investigator's seminar, which is to be held at the Fire Service College at the beginning of November.

I feel honoured to have known Pete Ganci and I have lost a great friend. Camaraderie in the Fire Service throughout the world is very strong. We know each other and share techniques and skills. We come together at many different events and conferences in many countries. Pete Ganci was well known in this world of firefighters and this world has lost a tremendous leader, firefighter and ambassador.

John Williamson
Assistant Chief Officer, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service

For any other related information, you may want to get in touch with John Williamson by Email.

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