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Firefighter Father Recalls Losing Sons On 9/11

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Firefighter Father Recalls Losing Sons On 9/11

Firefighter Father Recalls Losing Sons On 9/11

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It is Friday morning, September 11, and Friday is when we hear from our project called StoryCorps, which is helping to remember people who died on 9/11. Today, we'll hear the story of two brothers. John Vigiano Jr. was a New York City firefighter. His younger brother, Joe, was a detective on the city's police force. And both were killed when World Trade Center towers collapsed.

Here now is their father, retired firefighter John Vigiano Sr.

Mr. JOHN VIGIANO (Retired Firefighter): There were a couple of days each year you were allowed to take your children to work. And Joe loved it. That was his birthday present, that he would come and spend the night in the firehouse. We'd have a cake. And the guys I worked with, they would take a milk container and they'd cut out the facsimile of a building and they'd put it on the top of the cake and then they would light it up.

And they would tell Joe to put it out, and he would throw a pot of water on it. The birthday cake was a little soggy, but this was what he wanted.

And Joe started dating a young lady whose father was a police officer. And he come home one day and he says, I'm taking the police test. I says, Joe, you're only 17 years old. And he says, no big deal. He passed the test and when he graduated, they assigned him to east New York where I started my career.

On the other side of the room, my son John wanted nothing to do with police or emergency service or the fire department. He wanted to be the next Donald Trump. He was going to make a million dollars and take care of his mother and father. But in 1984, I came down with throat cancer.

He noticed then how my unit took care of us. And he says, I'm going to become a fireman. I says, you're kidding me. Firemen don't make millions of dollars. How am I going to live like a king? But I was very happy; very proud.

My father had been on the fire department, and he was the first one to be issued badge number 3436. And when John decided he wanted to be a firefighter, they reissued it to my son John. So, the badge is only used by two.

Both the boys would call me when they were working. John would always call around 3:30, four o'clock, and that particular night, September 10, we spoke for a few minutes. And I says, I love you, and he says, I love you.

Joe calls me in the morning and told me to turn on the television, that a plane just hit the Trade Center. And he says I'm heading south on West Street; this is a big one. I just says, be careful; I love you. He says, I love you too. That was it.

We had the boys for - John for 36 years, Joe for 34 years. Ironically, Badge number 3436.

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. And the last words that they heard was I love you. So, that makes me sleep at night.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: John Vigiano Sr. at StoryCorps remembering his songs, John Jr. and Joe. StoryCorps is working with the National September 11th Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center to collect these kinds of memories.

And the interview will be archived at the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress. The Podcast is at NPR.org.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: It's NPR News.

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