It was the first month of his baby’s life—a busy time for a family man. Yet Michael Stack also had to find time to pursue another urgent family matter—sifting through rubble and asking questions about his father’s whereabouts at Ground Zero.
“I know exactly where he was… But there’s 110 floors on top of him,” Stack told Newsday’s Jennifer Smith in December 2001.
“People ask me what do I want for Christmas?” he said. “I wish he was here. I wish we could bury him.”
Now, 15 years later, this wish finally comes true.
On Friday, June 17, Battalion Chief Lawrence Stack of the New York City Fire Department was buried at Long Island’s Calverton National Cemetery following a funeral mass.
It was 14 years, 9 months, and 6 days after he died.
Stack’s remains were never found. But his family recently discovered two vials of blood that he had donated during a bone marrow drive for a child with cancer. And that is enough for a Catholic funeral.
Chief Stack was a soft spoken man of Ronkonkoma, Long Island. He grew up in College Point, Queens, and couldn’t have been more than 18 when he joined the Navy. He spent 6 years in service and was deployed to the Vietnam War. He was honorably discharged in 1966.
A year later, he married his wife Teri. One more year and he joined the New York City Fire Department. Just as his father did. And his brother. And his brother-in-law. And, later, both his sons, Michael and Brian.
In 1981, he was promoted to Lieutenant, in 1984 to Captain, and in 1990 to Battalion Chief. In 1994 he was assigned to the Safety Battalion.
As a safety chief, his job was to look out for his fellow fire fighters. And that’s exactly what he did when terrorists struck the South and North World Trade Center Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
He had just a few years until retirement, looking forward to the leisure time he earned, to spend time with his first granddaughter Colleen, who was just born on September 4.
But on September 11, Chief Stack was a firefighter and his job was to save lives.
When the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m., Chief Stack helped free two Lieutenants entangled and trapped in the rubble. They found their way out of the collapsed building. But there was another person asking for help—a civilian man with a severed Achilles tendon who could not walk. Chief Stack was joined by Chief Ray Downey and both stayed with the injured man, sending the two Lieutenants to safety, according to a National Fallen Firefighters Foundation account written by Teresa Stack.
Then, at 10:28 a.m., the North Tower Collapsed and both Stack and Downey lost their lives.
Fate had it that Chief Stack owned a condo in Delray Beach, Fla., right across the street from where Saeed Al-ghamdi and Ahmed Al-nami lived.
The two Saudis were among the hijackers of the United Airlines Flight 93, that crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11, after passengers tried to regain control of the plane. The terrorists were thought to aim either for the White House or the Capitol.
“It’s balcony to balcony. It’s about 300 feet from terrorists to hero,” local resident Ann Nathanson told The Blade in 2001.
The funeral for Chief Stack, a victim of the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, unintentionally coincides with the first funerals of the people shot in Orlando on Sunday, victims of the second deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.