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IAFF Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service, 2002

Colorado Springs, CO, Sept. 21

Back to News Net's IAFF 2002 main page


Photos/videos from Memorial Service

List of Fallen Firefighters Honored

The Last Alarm, dedicated to children of the fallen

Lt. John Napolitano, FDNY, deceased

Interview with Lt. John E. Coburn, Jr., IAFF Local 366, Matteson, IL

IAFF website

IAFF Memorial website

Fire Safety Resource Directory, USFA site, links to fire safety education

IAFF Local 386, Matteson IL

Sparky the Fire Dog, NFPA site, kids learn about fire safety


I have received some communications from John Napolitano, Sr., the father of the late Lt. John Napolitano, correcting some factual errors and providing me with a cleaner copy of the letter below, as well as an image that shows both the note written in ashes at the World Trade Center on 9/12/02, and a copy of a photo of his son hard at work at the WTC after the first bombing in 1993.  For the updated information, including Mr. Napolitano's description of events that have occurred at WTC memorials each year since 9/11, click here.  I have left the original page up, including the errors, as I believe it helps, together with Mr. Napolitano's e-mails, to tell the story not only of what happened with Lt. Napolitano, but of my reaction at the Colorado Springs Memorial.


At the Memorial, there were many moving tributes, but the New York wall, dedicated to the 343 firefighters who died Sept. 11, 2001, was overwhelming.  There was a program from a funeral service.  I opened it, and when I began to read the first quote, I just completely lost it and had to stop reading.  It began: "Surprise, Grandpa, I'm here!  I wish I had been able to meet you..." It went on, but when I looked and saw the child's name, and the note that the child was 20 days old on the day of the service, and then read the names of the other signers, at least one of whom was also a grandchild, I knew I couldn't read any further.  This was after seeing a photo of ashes at the wreckage, where a child's hand had written the words: "Dad.. I'm here.  I love you and we're searching for you.  Bravo Company is here."  Below that was a letter, and if I understood correctly, which I admittedly may not, the letter was from the Grandfather of that child who's note was written in ashes. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I am not sure.  I thought the ashes note was from a boy, and see no mention of a boy in the letter below, which makes me question my memory/understanding.  The note may have been from a girl, however, I'm just not sure.  The text of that letter, to Lt. John Napolitano, FDNY is below.  Click on the picture to see it full-size, though it is not readable at this size.


My beloved son:


I miss you so much sometimes the anguish is unbearable.  But I think of your strength, courage and having known firsthand your profound heroism, you give me the strength that I need to continue and to be there for your family as best I can.


You would be very proud of them, Son.  Ann is giving the girls all the love and support that they need, and will not allow a broken heart to get in the way.  Elizabeth and Emma miss their Daddy and cry for you, but even at a young age, they seem to know how to pull it together and be there for their Mommy.  Your three girls are doing you proud, and although their hearts are broken, their spirit is strong, and their love for you is the cement that holds them together, and nothing will tear them apart.  That my Son, I can promise you.


I was so lucky to have you, not every father is fortunate enough to have a son that he could look up to.  You dedicated your life to helping people and saving lives, you demonstrated at an early age a maturity and profound sense of decency not found in a great many people.  You took your profession very seriously but not yourself.  You had a great sense of humor, and it was deeply appreciated by your friends, and so was your love which you gave so freely.


Your friends miss you so much my Son, they (unreadable) you so, and my heart breaks for them.  I visit from time to time with your fellow firefighters, and when they speak of you, there is a (unreadable) and they all say the same thing, that you were special, and I understand, because for me my Son, you always were and always will be special.  Our time together was too short, and my anguish is unrelenting, but with all the anguish and the pain, I would endure it again and again, because having you was a beautiful gift, and it would have been a far greater tragedy to never have had you at all.  I walk about the house and the memory of you is overwhelming.  I see the great man that you grew to be, but I still hear the childhood laughter.  The squirrels in the attic that you tried so hard to catch for me, are gone.  It's as if they know that you are not here, and the game is over.  Perhaps they cry too.  I wish that they would come back so that maybe you would hear them, and you would come back to catch them, and I can see you again.  I will never say goodbye to you, my Son.  I will be proud of you forever, and love you always.



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