This Father’s Day I can think of no one better to celebrate than New York Fire Department Battalion Chief Lawrence Stack, the final victim of 9/11 to be buried.
It was fitting he was laid to rest this Father’s Day weekend as he represented everything about fatherhood that is great.
Chief Stack, 58, saved lives, was a tremendous family man, loved his job and was not found wanting that dreadful day when the world itself looked like it was collapsing.
He could surely have got away but chose to stay and help a complete stranger.
His job for years was to be the second pair of eyes at every major fire, in charge of the safety of the firemen and painstakingly investigating if something went wrong or if a fatality happened in making sure it would not happen again. It was work that saved many lives and Larry Stack loved it his family said.
Therefore‚ it was no surprise on 9/11 when Chief Stack helped free two lieutenants entangled and trapped in the rubble after the first collapse of the World Trade Center. Chief Stack‚ along with the two Lieutenants‚ found their way out of the collapsed South Tower only to come across an injured civilian with a severed Achilles tendon who could not walk and asked for help. Chief Stack‚ along with Chief Ray Downey‚ stayed with this civilian while directing the two lieutenants to safety. Unfortunately‚ the North Tower collapsed.
He was the son of a firefighter and his two sons are firefighters, almost a century of giving to New York and to saving lives. It is an Irish tradition, held sacred by many families. The tricolor and the Stars and Stripes both featured at his funeral.
But most important to Chief Stack was his family, his wife of 34 years‚ Teri‚ and their two sons‚ Michael and Brian.
What Chief Stack loved the most was his wife and family. At 6 foot 5 and over 300 pounds he was a giant of a man--in every way.
Now he has been laid to rest because of what can only be called a miraculous intervention. His body was never found among the ruins of the second tower where he had gone to save lives. For fifteen long years the family who held a memorial service after he died, longed to give him a proper farewell.
Then it was discovered he had donated two vials of blood to help a kid stricken with illness in his neighborhood shortly before 9/11. At last his family had something to treasure, the very lifeblood of the man they loved.
Amazingly the blood had been preserved and the family knew at last that their dad’s spirit and soul could be laid to rest.
“We got him back,” said his oldest son, FDNY Lieut. Michael Stack, 46, who works at Ladder 176, where his dad once served.
“I used to get mad when I was in church for certain occasions. I was angry because my father missed so much. I’m not mad anymore,” said Stack. “He’s being finally laid to rest in a place he rightfully earned along with the best of the best this country has to offer, forever.”
Prior to joining the New York City Fire Department‚ Larry Stack spent six years in the United States Navy‚ including his last year which was during the Vietnam War. Following his honorable discharge on February 19‚1966‚ he had a brief stint with the NYPD.
Larry Stack comes from a family of firefighters. His father was a firefighter for 38 years. His brother‚ Dennis‚a retired Captain‚ spent more than 25 years on the job. His son‚ Michael‚ was appointed to the FDNY in 1994 and Brian also joined the ranks. Also his brother-in-law‚ Ray – a retired Lieutenant – spent more than 25 years on the job as well.
In Larry’s work saving lives was routine. In his safety job, he was a firefighters’ sixth sense. He had their backs.
Now his family have him back and a grave to visit that contains his precious remains. His wife Teresa was a study in sheer class as she finally properly said goodbye to the man she loved for 32 years. The Mayor of New York and a new generation of firefighters paid their respects.
Many are young fathers and mothers who can only imagine what the previous generation of firefighters and their families went through that dreadful day---and still do.
Let us remember them this Father’s Day, all the fathers, mothers,brothers sisters who died that dreadful day. In the person of Battalion Chief Larry Stack we realize what true greatness is- to lay down your life for your fellow man.
When it came his turn to do so, he did unflinchingly. We owe him a great debt---May he rest in peace.