A Hero, A Tragedy and A Father’s Love, 2012 Update

Lt. John P. Napolitano, Jr. in 1978, photo courtesy of John Napolitano, Sr.

Posted 9/8/12 – Each year in September, my thoughts turn to John Napolitano, a friend in New York whom I’ve never met, and his family, particularly his son, John P. Napolitano, one of the heroes of 9/11 who gave his life at the World Trade Center, and John’s wife Ann, and their two daughters, Emma and Elizabeth.  Ages two and six when their father died, the girls are now young ladies, 13 and 16 years old.  Over the years, John has allowed me to share his thoughts on the events of that day and since from a father and grandfather’s perspective.  John shared this story with me and agreed to allow me to post it.  In it, we see how the events of that day are still a part of not only the lives of those who suffered through it, but of the next generation of children who were not even born when it happened, as they are taught about it in their schools and participate in projects which will hopefully ensure that WE WILL NEVER FORGET!  Be sure to read to the very end for an update on one of John’s two daughters that will give you goosebumps…

I remember seeing, those days in September, 2001, all the People behind the Police Barriers cheering and giving support to those who were searching and hoping in the devastation that was once the World Trade Center but was now being called “Ground Zero.”  One day as myself and my friend Lenny, brother of Lt. John Crisci, Haz-Mat1, who was missing alongside my Son, Lt John P Napolitano, Rescue2, were leaving the “Site,” it was very late but behind the barriers there were still so many People, and they set up tables with food, and they were asking Lenny and I to please have something to eat…we didn’t have an appetite, we didn’t eat all day but food was not on our minds…how do I go home and tell two little Girls that I didn’t find their Daddy…but we were gracious and thanked them and we walked the length of this really big table and looked at all the food, and Lenny picked up a small container, looked at me and said “Grey Poupon Mustard…only in New York”.. and we looked at each other.  We were beat, and broken, and our hope was gone we just wouldn’t admit it, but we smiled…Only in New York.  But the truth is all across our Country everyone had a big heart, and if they could have, they all would have been in New York.

Soon besides all the Missing Persons Posters there were other Posters, many from Schools made by Children with the help of their Teachers, and they were placed in front of Police Stations and Fire Houses and in the vicinity of the World Trade Center…messages of hope and love and support…one Poster in particular caught the eye of a Red Cross Volunteer who saved it from being discarded or ruined by weather.

On September 11, 2001 and for some time after we were all grey…we joined hands and hearts with those that we lost, with People some of us didn’t even know, and gave their Family and Friends a shoulder to lean on…the grey ash from the Trade Center spread across this Great Nation, and inspired by the Courage and Heroism of our Fallen Firefighters and Police Officers and all First Responders became a cement that bound us together…and nothing…no Radical Islamic Terrorist, no falling Skyscrapers…nothing would tear us apart.

Lenny and I find a young Woman under a Steel Beam, covered in grey ash, the Beam across her face…I stare at her for a long time, I am angry and sad at the same time, and I wonder about her Family, her Mom and Dad waiting for her safe return, hoping the phone will ring with good news…not today…or is she a young Mother and back home her baby is crying for her…Mommy always rocks baby to sleep when she cries…not today.  Is my Son standing beside me, is he telling me “don’t cry Dad, she is no longer there, she is with me and she is okay now…and so am I”..

Click to enlarge. Image courtesy of John Napolitano

About seven years ago my Brother-in-law Bob told me that a Red Cross Volunteer contacted him after seeing a Poem he wrote about my Son on line and (she) would like to give something to me and he gave me her phone number and I called her.  We arranged to meet at the Bluepoint Long Island Red Cross Chapter. I met this wonderful Lady and she gave to me a Poster that she held for years, she said that the Flag in the middle and the imprint of a little hand moved her so much that she could not see any harm come to this Poster, but now feels that it should be with Family.  I looked at it as she unfolded it like it was a precious and sacred artifact, and when I saw it opened, precious and sacred would be an understatement…it was done by Pre-Schoolers, and the American Flag was done by the Daughter of a Fallen Firefighter…that Firefighter was my Son and his youngest Daughter, Emma Rose drew and colored the American Flag and a little below the Flag is her handprint…so tiny.. I put my hand over hers and I said…”your Daddy knows, Emma”..

This week I used Emma Rose’s Poster to help answer some questions that Children have about 9/11, and with them created a new Poster, I had a Vision and a Hope…so the Children of 2012 joined hands with the Children of 2001, they have reached across a Nation and they said we are one…and their little hands are Grey…

Maybe someday the whole World will be Grey, and we will never again…have a 9/11.

John Napolitano
Father of Lt John P Napolitano, FDNY, Rescue2,
and Grandfather of Elizabeth Anne and Emma Rose Napolitano..

PS: Emma Rose is now a Junior Volunteer Firefighter with the Lakeland Fire Department, Ronkonkoma, New York, where her Father also Served…and she wears his hat.