Like Desperito, one of his firefighters, New York City Fire Department Chief Peter J. Ganci died trying to help others.
Ganci, 54, was working to rescue victims of the first tower collapse when the second tower crumbled, burying him and other high-level city fire officials.
Friends described the Farmingdale, Long Island, native as a loyal comrade with a dearth of pretense and a love of practical jokes.
For one, there was the time in the 1960s when Ganci “borrowed” a friend’s horse in Farmingdale and took it to a town carnival. Unable to coax the horse into the back of his convertible, he led the animal down Farmingdale’s busiest street.
As Ganci rose through the ranks from Farmingdale volunteer to New York City firefighter to chief, certain things remained consistent, said Skip Schumeyer, a retired city firefighter who first met Ganci when Schumeyer was 10 years old and Ganci was his 18-year-old idol on the volunteer Farmingdale force.
Ganci was devoted to his wife and three children, one of whom also became a New York City firefighter. He was always the last to leave a party. And, Schumeyer said, was always ready to help others.
Two weeks ago, Ganci and his daughter took part in a canoe race to raise money to help pay the medical bills of a local firefighter’s daughter.
Ganci lost the race, but he long ago won the hearts of his community.
“He had a chest full of medals,” Schumeyer said. “But he never forgot his roots here.”