In the days shortly after the towers fell on 9/11/2001 a contingent of SLVFD firefighters along with a county wide response provided EMS coverage directly at “Ground Zero”.
On May 15th of 2021 following a courageous battle with his illness, SLVFD member John A. Vallini succumbed to 9/11 related cancer associated with his response with the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department.
Yesterday October 10th, 2023 John’s name along with the names of 28 other firefighters from throughout New York State were officially added to the New York State Fallen Firefighters Memorial. The 29 firefighters memorialized all died in the line of duty, including several others who also died from 9/11 related illnesses.
John Vallini is the second SLVFD member to have his name etched on this wall. On June 27th 1954 SLVFD member Thomas J. Fina was killed in the line of duty on a fire call here in the Village of Saranac Lake.
Several SLVFD members traveled and represented our department during the ceremony. Members included Chief Brendan Keough, Captain Andrew Wright, Director Jim Stinson, Firefighter Bob Nadon, Firefighter Mary Brown, and Firefighter and current President of the Saranac Lake Volunteer Rescue Squad Julie Harjung. Representing John Vallini’s family was close friend, SLVFD Honor Roll Member, and retired paid driver, John Derby, as well as close friend Sean Reynolds, and close friend and past SLVFD member James D’Ambro. Also present with our contingent was SLVFD photographer Eva Stinson, and SLVRS member RN/AEMT-CC Mim Millar. Up until the time of John’s passing, he continued to serve on the board of the SLVRS and as a member of the SLVFD auxiliary. Present to greet the Saranac Lake contingent was our local representatives New York State Assemblyman Billy Jones, and New York State Senator Dan Stec.
All of us who attended would admit some level of emotional overwhelm, honor, and humility at the sight of hundreds of uniformed firefighters accompanied by perhaps the largest contingent of pipes and drums most, if not all of us had ever seen.
The ceremonial pipes and drums were provided en masse from 6 separate pipe and drum corps. They came from the New York State Fire Pipes and Drums, the Greater Buffalo Firefighters Pipe and Drums, the Orange County Firefighters Pipes and Drums, the Rockland County Firefighters Pipes and Drums, the Westchester Firefighters Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, and the Yonkers Fire Pipes and Drums.
The MC of the event was James B. Cable, the New York State Fire Administrator. In his remarks Mr. Cable stated “A solemn milestone was reached in September when the number of members lost to World Trade Center related illnesses matched the number lost on September 11, 2001 itself” In addition to Mr. Cable the crowd was addressed by Governor Kathy Hochel, Jackie Bray the Commissioner of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and representatives of both the majority and minority leaders of both houses of the New York State Legislature.
The ceremony was held inside the Empire State Plaza Convention Center (aka the egg) included was an invocation by Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello, Chaplain of the FDNY, a prayer for the safety of firefighters by Father John Tallman, Chaplain of the New York State Professional Firefighters Association, the laying of a ceremonial wreath, a formal roll call that included the presentation to each of the 29 families a flag that was flown for a day over the fallen firefighters memorial, the sounding of the bell, moment of silence, and taps. A benediction was given by Pastor Barrie-Lyn Foster, Chaplain of the Fireman’s Association of the State of New York.
Following the formal ceremony, the honored departments and families were invited to a reception and all were invited outside to view the memorial.
A video of the ceremony in its entirety can be seen below.