Chief Lawrence Stack
Memorial Service was held
December 8, 2001.
He Served as 'a Firefighter's Sixth Sense'
December 4, 2001 - New York Newsday
Soft-spoken Battalion Chief Larry Stack was what fire department
veterans call a fireman's fireman. The work was in his blood
- his father, brother, brother-in-law, and son had all served
in the New York City Fire Department. But Stack, 58, of Ronkonkoma,
earned the moniker through his record, not his pedigree.
As chief in charge of the safety battalion, Stack held the lives
of firefighters in his hands. He decided whether or not a building
was safe to go into and was in charge of investing on-the-job
fatalities. "He was a firefighter's sixth sense," said
his son Michael, 32. "He was their second set of eyes."
He grew up in College Point and joined the fire department in
1967 after serving in Vietnam with the Navy. In a way, he went
from fighting a war abroad to battling a different kind of war
at home. Assigned to Ladder 107 in East New York, a neighborhood
then troubled by rising crime, Stack learned his trade battling
the blazes that ravaged the area in the late 1960s. It was a
test he met with fortitude. "He was a quiet, gentle man
with a great inner strength," said Teri Stack, his wife
of 34 years.
Stack was the kind of man who would call home on a busy workday
just to say hello. After his shift, "he came home exhausted," his
wife said. "But he made time always for my family and me."
His handiwork is everywhere in the house where they raised their
two sons: in the decorative woodwork, in the cathedral ceiling
he put in, in the deck outside that he built. Stack's sons say
he was never too tired to help Brian, now 30, with his soccer
or to pitch warm-up balls to Michael before Little League games.
Bonded by a shared sense of humor and a deep Catholic faith,
the family remained close after the boys moved out, and enjoyed
vacationing together at the Stacks' condo in Delray Beach, Fla.
By the time Stack was promoted to captain in 1981, he formed
a second family, composed of the people he had worked with and
trained at firehouses all over Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. "They
lived, slept and ate together," said his wife, and were
a team forged in danger, whose lives and families become further
intertwined at barbecues and firehouse parties.
Just a few years away from retirement, Stack was looking forward
to his upcoming leisure time and to being a first-time grandfather
to Michael's daughter, Colleen, born Sept. 4. Instead, he became
one of the fatalities it had been his job to investigate.
On Sept. 11, Stack was in Astoria working on the case of three
firefighters who perished in a Father's Day fire. Hearing of
the attacks on the World Trade Center, he rushed to the scene
to direct firefighters to safety. He was doing his job on the
ground floor of the north tower when it collapsed. His body has
not yet been recovered.
In a twist of fate, two of the hijackers from the plane that
crashed in Pennsylvania lived across the street from the Stacks'
"People ask me what do I want for Christmas?" said
his son Michael. "I wish he was here. I wish we could bury
him." He spent the month after the attacks - his daughter's
first month of life - sifting through rubble and asking questions
about his father's whereabouts at Ground Zero. "I know exactly
where he was," he said. "But there's 110 floors on
top of him."
As difficult as the last few months have been, the family is
determined to stay strong. Last month Teri Stack hosted Thanksgiving
dinner for her in-laws, as planned. "I want to follow through
with everything we talked about," she said. "They took
Larry's life, but they didn't take mine. I'm going to live, because
I have so much to live for."
-- Jennifer Smith (Newsday)
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