Michael Langone Saving Lives and Keeping Hope September 18, 2001
As children, Tommy and Peter Langone grew up in a world where
dealing with danger was a family tradition. It made sense that
Tommy wanted to be a firefighter and Peter wanted to be a cop.
Along the way, they switched roles. A week ago, when they disappeared
into the smoke and destruction of the World Trade Center, Tommy
was the cop and Peter was the firefighter. But they were both
following their essential dream - they were trying to save lives.
"This is what they do for a living," says their sister, Joanne
Ciborowski. "They live it, they breathe it, they love it. It's
what they've always done, both of them." The Langone family is
no stranger to the perils of life-saving. They're all in professions
where moments are measured by life and death. The brothers' father,
Paul, was a volunteer firefighter for more than 30 years in Roslyn,
where the brothers grew up, as was Paul's uncle before him. Ciborowski
and Tommy and Peter's other sister, Rosemarie Langone, are nurses
and former ambulance company volunteers in the same community.
And Tommy and Peter are members of the Roslyn Rescue Fire Department.
Tommy, 39, is a police officer with New York City's Emergency
Service Unit. Peter, 41, is a member of Engine Company 252 in
Bushwick, Brooklyn. Neither has been heard from since they responded
to the explosion. But the people who love and pray for the brothers
wait and hope for their safe return. They still talk about them
in the present tense. Until officers "come to the door" to notify
the family otherwise, their mother, Sheila, says, "Nothing is
official. We know the chances. We'll hang onto hope." Their mother
says a firefighter from Peter's company visited her home Sunday
after a 12-hour rescue shift. "'We're still digging,"' he told
her. In the midst of their waiting, the family could smile thinking
that Tommy, who is also a fire instructor at the academy in Bethpage,
is "down there with a piece of chalk talking to everyone, doing
a schematic of how to get out," says Ciborowski. "He's always
the teacher." She described both her brothers as "very funny."
Tommy has a dry wit and is highly organized. "Peter always tells
it like it is," she says. "He's always there to help people. If
you needed something done, it would be done and you wouldn't know
who did it, then you'd find out it was Peter. He did things without
fanfare. You didn't have to ask twice." Both brothers are familiar
with disasters. Both responded to the 1990 crash of Avianca Flight
52 in Cove Neck, and both were at the World Trade Center bombing
in 1993. Tommy was sent to Oklahoma City for a week after the
bombing there "doing what these guys are now doing for him," according
to Joanne. The brothers Langone and their sisters grew up in Roslyn
Heights, where Peter's home is around the corner from his mother.
Tommy lives two towns away in Williston Park. Both graduated from
Roslyn High School and attended Nassau Community College. Neither
one could wait until he was old enough to join Roslyn rescue with
their father, who died in 1985. He had been a volunteer for the
company for about 33 years, finally becoming chief. Tommy followed
in his father's footsteps by becoming, at 24, one of the youngest
chiefs the department ever had. The brothers have their own families.
Tommy and his wife, JoAnn, have two children, Caitlin, 12, and
Brian, who turned 10 this month. Peter and his wife, Terri, have
two daughters, Nikki, 9, and Karli, 5. Tommy was riding back to
his unit on Queens Boulevard with a sergeant Tuesday when they
heard the news. They turned right around and headed for the scene.
They suited up, got equipment and went in to rescue survivors.
Peter had just finished his overnight tour and was on the phone
with his wife. Then a call came over the radio and he told her
that he had to go. The family says the burnt shell of Peter's
fire truck has been recovered. Joanne and Rosemarie went to the
Trade Center site yesterday. The rescue workers were talking about
"voids, pockets and airspace," says Joanne. "Then they said, 'You
can't give up."' Tommy helped establish the emergency medical
service in Roslyn, according to Fire Chief Alan Schwalberg. The
unit now deals with about 800 ambulance calls a year. Tommy is
second assistant chief. Peter is a former captain of the department.
Both are considered current, active firefighters. "The whole family
is totally devoted to serving the community, they're very dedicated,"
says Schwalberg. "We're still hoping for their return." Sometimes,
Ciborowski says, the family considers the grim possibility they
won't return. At those moments they take solace in Tommy and Peter's
chance to follow a dream. "God forbid, if the worst is the worst,"
says Ciborowski, "they certainly were doing what they loved doing."
-- Eden Laikin (Newsday)
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