Firefighter Father Recalls Losing Sons On 9/11

The Vigiano brothers i i

The Vigiano brothers were the subjects of an Academy Award-winning short film, Twin Towers. They also inspired the Vigiano Brothers Scholarship Fund for Italian-Americans. Courtesy of the Vigiano family hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the Vigiano family
The Vigiano brothers

The Vigiano brothers were the subjects of an Academy Award-winning short film, Twin Towers. They also inspired the Vigiano Brothers Scholarship Fund for Italian-Americans.

Courtesy of the Vigiano family

John Vigiano Jr. was a New York City firefighter. His younger brother, Joe, served on the police force as a detective. Both died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Their father, retired firefighter John Vigiano Sr., recalls how the two became public servants. At 17, Joe began dating a young woman whose father was a police officer, inspiring him to take the police test.

As John recalls, he told his son, "Joe, you're only 17 years old!" But Joe replied, "No big deal."

After finishing his training, Joe joined the police force in East New York, where his father had begun his own career.

John Jr., on the other hand, grew up wanting to be the "next Donald Trump," according to his father.

"He was gonna make a million dollars and take care of his mother and father," John Sr. says of his son.

Jan and John Vigiano i i

Jan and John Vigiano, parents of Joe and John Jr. StoryCorps hide caption

itoggle caption StoryCorps
Jan and John Vigiano

Jan and John Vigiano, parents of Joe and John Jr.

StoryCorps

But after seeing his father struggle through throat cancer — and witnessing firsthand the way his dad's firefighter unit took care of him — John Jr. decided to become a firefighter. He even received his grandfather's badge number, 3436.

John would talk to his sons on the phone each day while they were working. Around 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 10, John talked with John Jr. They ended the call by saying "I love you" to each other.

The next morning, Joe called his father, telling him early details of the terrorist attacks. That call also ended with "I love you."

"We had the boys for — John for 36 years, Joe for 34 years, ironically. Badge number 3436," John Sr. says.

On the loss of his sons, John Sr. reflects, "I don't have any could've, should've or would'ves. I wouldn't have changed anything. It's not many people that the last words they said to their son or daughter was 'I love you.' "

Produced for Morning Edition by Lizzie Jacobs and Vanara Taing. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

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