Hero Who Loved the Flag
Paul Laszczynski (pronounced la-ZIN-ski) had a box full of honors from his career as a Port Authority police officer, most notably a Fraternal Order of Police Valor Award for helping to carry someone down more than 70 flights of stairs after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
But his position with the Port Authority's honor guard carrying the American flag meant more to him, said his girlfriend, Charlene Talarico. "That was probably one of the more important things to him, more important than most of his commendations," she said.
At 6 feet 5 and 240 pounds, Mr. Laszczynski, 49, of Paramus, N.J., was a striking flag-bearer. "He was into the snap, he liked to look right," Ms. Talarico said. "I don't think anybody looked better in the uniform."
He kept his turquoise Harley-Davidson Wide Glide just as spiffy, and even named one of his Lhasa Apsos Harley. He rode the bike with the Renegade Pigs, a motorcycle police group that raises money for children's charities. "He was a hero with a heart," Ms. Talarico said.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 3, 2001.
Paul Laszczynski, 49, from lab to patrol car
Paul Laszczynski spent years earning a science degree and plying his trade in a Carlstadt laboratory but he always longed to be a police officer.
So when a job offer with the Conrail Transit Police came in, the athletic 6-foot, 6-inch scientist from Jersey City grabbed it.
"He just always wanted to become a police officer," said Karen Walker of Wayne, his former wife. "He liked the idea of helping people and making a difference in their lives, helping them out as best he could in any situation."
By the 1990s, those situations would unfold in places like the World Trade Center, where he helped rescue victims of the 1993 bombing, and atop the George Washington Bridge, which he scaled more than once to help would-be jumpers climb down.
By then he'd become a police officer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. There he would undergo the rigorous training required to join the agency's emergency services unit.
And, by all accounts, he learned well.
"He took tremendous pride in being a member of this police department and was an exemplary cop in every aspect, from the way he dressed to the way he dealt with people," said Lt. Susan Durett, his supervisor for more than a dozen years, first at the P.A. central police pool and later at the PATH command in Journal Square.
"He was courageous and an excellent police officer who represented this department well," said Durett. "He certainly did on September 11th. He represented us all well."
As word of the first terrorist strike reached his unit that day, Officer Laszczynski rushed to Lower Manhattan. He was last heard from helping victims in the lobby of the North Tower.
He is one of 37 Port Authority police officers believed to have perished in the terrorist attacks.
Mr. Laszczynski, 49, was born in Baltimore and grew up in Jersey City, family members said. He graduated from Lincoln High School and Jersey City State College and played tight end on the football teams of both schools.
He would later try out but fail to make the New York Giants and Jets pro football teams.
"And I've just been handed a note from someone," said Durett, during a telephone interview yesterday. "He was a 'helluva' pitcher for our softball team."
Mr. Laszczynski lived in Paramus at the time of his death.
He is survived by two daughters, Amy, 22, and Jennifer, 20, both of Wayne, and two sisters, Theresa and Jeanette.
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. today at St. Mary's Church in Pompton Lakes.
Profile by Russell Ben-Ali published in THE STAR-LEDGER.