A Leader With Modesty
The thing about Peter J. Ganci was, he didn't flaunt it. He was just a regular guy living with his family on Long Island, so at peace with himself that if you asked him what he did for a living, he would just say, "I'm a fireman in the city."
"He would never say that he was the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the department," said Fire Marshal Steven Mosiello, his longtime friend and executive assistant.
Most of the time, Pete Ganci, who was 54, was that regular guy down the street who happened to be a decorated hero and boss: the guy who loved to laugh, golf, go clamming in Great South Bay. On Deputy Fire Commissioner Lynn Tierney's desk is a photograph of him in formal uniform — five stars on his collar and all — and a pink headband that says "Happy Birthday." The photograph's meaning is simple, she said: "He was man enough to wear a pink headband that said `Happy Birthday.'"
Then there were those times when Pete Ganci was Chief Ganci, as on that last morning. In the eerie calm between the collapse of the two towers, Deputy Fire Commissioner Michael Regan recalled, "Pete Ganci directed every civilian and every firefighter to go north. He went south."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on January 22, 2002.
September 13, 2001
Peter Ganci, Top Fire Chief, Dies at 54 in Tower Collapse
By GLENN COLLINS
Peter J. Ganci, the New York City Fire Department's highest-ranking uniformed officer, died on Tuesday in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. He was 54.
His death was confirmed yesterday by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen.
Chief Ganci, who held the title chief of department, had been working his multichannel radio, standing at the center of the smoky chaos in front of 1 World Trade Center on Tuesday and personally commanding the rescue efforts when the building collapsed. He and the mayor had spoken only minutes before.
In a news conference late Tuesday night, the mayor described how earlier in the day, as he was leaving for his own command post, he chatted briefly with Chief Ganci and told him, "God bless you, Pete."
The chief "would never ask anyone to do something he didn't do himself," said Howard Safir, who was his direct superior as fire commissioner from 1994 to 1996, the year Mr. Safir was named police commissioner. "It didn't surprise me that he was right at the front lines. You would never see Pete five miles away, in some command center."
A 33-year department veteran, Chief Ganci managed all uniformed personnel, and was also responsible for the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services.
Mr. Ganci joined the department in the 1960's, serving in engine and ladder companies in Brooklyn and the Bronx during an era of crisis, when fire companies battled arson fires almost continually in the city's poorest neighborhoods.
He rose to lieutenant in 1977, captain in 1983 and battalion chief in 1987, and was promoted to deputy chief in 1993, when he was working in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Chief Ganci was placed in charge of the Bureau of Fire Investigation in 1994 after Mr. Safir was appointed fire commissioner. "There was a problem between the fire marshals and the uniformed firefighters," Mr. Safir said. "I needed a uniformed chief who could bring them together. It was a highly charged situation, and in months, he turned the fire marshals into a great operation."
In 1997 Chief Ganci was appointed chief of operations, the second highest uniformed position in the Fire Department. In 1999, he was named acting chief, after his predecessor was injured in a car accident. His appointment became official last January.
A resident of Massapequa, N.Y., he is survived by his wife, Kathleen; two sons, Peter 3rd, a firefighter assigned to Ladder Company 111 in Brooklyn, and Christopher; and a daughter, Danielle.
Editorial Obituary published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on September 13, 2001.