Robert Reeg, a 9/11 firefighter from Engine 44, called the Steele County Times office yesterday.
I didn’t know the man, but I do know his friend, Jimmy Lanza, from ladder truck 43. I was informed that Lanza had been diagnosed with brain cancer last November.
“Jimmy’s at Mary Manning Walsh hospice now,” Reeg said with a break in his voice. “I was there with my care dog to visit him yesterday and he’s incommunicado.”
In a matter of hours, a real American hero will be leaving us.
“He was part of the crew at Spanish Harlem,” Reeg said. “It’s funny because that is a unit filled with all guys who are over 6’4” tall. We’d bust his chops because he was short. We’d give him the twelve-foot hook.”
We laughed and agreed that the small man had a very big heart, and the fingerprint he left on this world’s soul will never be forgotten. Many met him last summer at the Dodge County Fair, and he touched us all with his stories and his candor.
I will reprint a portion of the interview that I did with him, and ask that you keep him in your prayers.
Lanza is not a tall man. He is not a muscle-bound caped crusader from Metropolis. He doesn’t have a booming voice. But he exemplifies and solidifies the very fact that heroes come in every shape and size.
Lanza worked as a New York City firefighter for 28 years, and on Sept. 11, 2001, he worked in ladder 43. Stationed in East Harlem.