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Peter J. Ganci Jr.

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  • Age: 54
  • Employer: FDNY
  • Place of death: Unknown
  • Community: North Massapequa
  • County: Suffolk

About Peter J. Ganci Jr.

This profile was originally published in 2001/2002

Peter Ganci was the kind of guy who wouldn't dream of letting on that he was the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the New York City Fire Department.

"I'm a fireman," the department chief would tell people who asked about his profession.

On Tuesday, Ganci died as he lived, working side by side with his troops as they dug out survivors of the blast at the World Trade Center.

"He was in the war zone," said his son Christopher Ganci, 25. "He wanted to be with the guys."

He's always been that way. In the Farmingdale Fire Department as a volunteer. In the 82nd Airborne as a paratrooper. And in the New York City Fire Department, where he served for 33 years and was decorated repeatedly for bravery.

"He loved the brotherhood and the camaraderie," said Ganci's son Peter III, 27. "It got in his blood, and he wouldn't leave."

Ganci's sons and two longtime friends, Dan Nickola of Farmingdale and Dan Ruesterholz of North Massapequa, gathered yesterday outside the garage of the family's North Massapequa home. They leaned on a white sedan, their sentences sometimes interrupted by wails of grief.

"He could be speaking with the president or a cab driver and he would respect them the same," said Nickola, who had known Ganci since their childhood in Farmingdale.

The group described a man who had a passion for clamming, crabbing and golf outings, who was a straight-shooter in conversation, who valued his job as much as his family.

Immediately after a jet struck the first tower, Ganci, 54, rushed to the scene from his command post in downtown Brooklyn and started the rescue effort. He was in the basement of the tower when it collapsed. Rubble caved in on him, but he dug himself out.

Ganci directed the mayor, the fire commissioners and others to clear out of the area because it was apparent the second tower would fall.

But he ignored his own order along with the Rev. Mychal Judge, the city fire department chaplain, and William Feehan, first deputy commissioner of the fire department. "I'm not leaving my men," Ganci said, according to firefighters on the scene.

Then the tower collapsed. Ganci's fire team pulled his lifeless body from the rubble. Judge and Feehan also perished.

"He had no business being there," said Peter, also a New York City firefighter.

But as Tuesday's events unfolded, Peter and Christopher knew their father was probably inside the tower when it collapsed. That's just the way he was.

Their fears were confirmed about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday when New York City police came to the home where Ganci lived with his sons, his daughter, Danielle, 22, and his wife, Kathleen, to deliver the news.

Danielle and Kathleen stayed up all night crying. Christopher and Peter are trying to be strong.

The sons stayed outside the house yesterday to greet the firefighters, neighbors and family who poured into the home to pay their respects.

"Your father was a hero," said a woman standing off to the side of the sons.

Peter looked at the ground and mumbled, "That doesn't do me any good though."

The fire chief is also survived by two sisters, Mary Dougherty and Ellen Ganci, and two brothers, Dan and Jim. — Dionne Searcey

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