Band of Dads

JOHN VIGIANO

 


September 11, 2001

JOHN VIGIANO
There is a photo that I took back on September 12th, in Union Square. It is of a note written in oil paint on a piece of paper and it was lying among candles and roses. It read, "There are no words to express my sorrow." Those were my feelings when I met an amazing man named John Vigiano, a former Marine and retired FDNY Captain. John has made many accomplishments in his life, including the winning battle he waged with throat cancer in the 1980's. But his two greatest life accomplishments were his sons, NYPD Detective Joseph Vigiano, age 34, and FDNY fireman John Vigiano II, age 36. John's sons were taken from him on the morning of September 11 and the pain that his family and his son's families have had to endure has tested their strength. Pride is not a big enough word to describe the way John described his son's to me and he reflected on what is what like to have both a fireman and police officer in the same family. "It certainly added a new dimension to holiday diners. Joe and John would joke a lot about the FDNY and the NYPD.
Joe would say the NYPD was best and John, with his great sense of humor would tease back saying Joe was correct as somebody has to direct the traffic while the real men fight the fire." But the respect that each brother had for the other's department was powerful. If Joe, a highly decorated 2nd grade Detective and officer in the elite Emergency Service Unit, ever heard someone insult the FDNY he would quickly and sharply put them in their place.


The same held true for John, who would not tolerate anyone making jokes about the NYPD. "John had visited his brother Joe three times in the hospital over the years when bullets nearly took his life. John knew the serious of the job of a police officer." It was rewarding to hear John speak of his sons, his love heard clearly in his voice. "John was like a sponge, soaking up any new techniques he could get so he could be a great fireman. He used to travel around the country with me and teach vehicle extrication ("jaws of life") to firemen and police." On the side, he was the biggest Rangers fan there was. Mark Messier was his favorite player in the NHL and he had hoped to meet him one day. That was one of his dreams. Joe, who became a Detective at the unusually young age of 24, loved what he did and his hard work and bravery earned him the Medal of Honor, the Combat Cross and three Medals of Valor.
This patriotism obviously runs in the family as evidenced by a moving story John shared with me. "It was about two week after my sons died and I went to visit my grandkids, Joe's three boys, Joseph, age 9, Jimmy, age 7 and John, age 1. It was my first visit to them since the tragedy and Jimmy knew I was coming, but not what time. I would find out later that Jimmy had stood outside for three hours waiting for me. I arrived to find him standing at attention, dressed in his little Marine fatigues that family friend Sgt. Mike Curtain had bought him a while back, and his loaded B.B. gun on his shoulder. Months before, at Jimmy's request, I had given him my old blanket from the Marines, which he had now rolled up into a bed roll and tied across his backpack." As John walked up to him, the first words from his grandson were, "Grandpa, are we ready to go to war?" John, emotional, replied, "No, Jimmy. We have big people doing that for us. You have to stay here and take care of your Mommy." John Vigiano would spend all his time at Ground Zero during the following months but never entered the pit area out of respect for his wife Jan's request. "She made me promise never to go in there." Joe had been found but John II was still among the missing. He wanted to go in with the other men and dig but Jan told him, "We are all we have together. Without you I have nobody. I need you." And so, John gave his word to Jan that he would stay on the outskirts of the hole. The irony was in November, John Vigiano, while walking around the site tripped on some wires sticking out of a light generator and broke his arm. The arm healed rather quickly, as opposed to his heart, which will always grieve for his two sons. He is now a full time grandpa, both giving and receiving love from Joe's little boys and John's little girls Nicolette, age 6, and Ariana, age 3. John Vigiano makes me feel proud to be an American.