On the day of the World trade Center attacks, fireman Jimmy Lanza rushed downtown with his East Harlem company to assist with rescue efforts. He helped 16 survivors out of the ruins. They were all found in a stairwell, which later became known as the “miracle stairwell.”
He survived that day, and worked for months afterwards in recovery efforts. Four years later, he went with the FDNY to New Orleans, where he helped save Hurricane Katrina victims. He worked with the families and survivors of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with the Wounded Warrior Project. Lanza served as the commander of American Legion Post 1836 in the Boulevard Gardens co-op that he called home for many years. He also performed many charitable acts. You could say that he dedicated his life to helping people survive.
But then, in November, 2016, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. The 71-year-old firefighter lost his battle to survive last April. On Friday, the corner of 31st Avenue & 54th Street facing Boulevard Gardens in Woodside, Queens, where he lived for 30 years, was officially co-named “Jimmy Lanza Way” on September 9 to commemorate Vietnam War veteran and 9/11 hero Jimmy Lanza.
City Council member Coasta Constantinides ushered this effort through the New York City Council to ensure Jimmy’s contribution to Woodside and the nation is remembered. “I am proud to recognize Jimmy Lanza’s memory with this street co-naming. We honor his service in the Navy and at FDNY, especially his assistance at the World Trade Center. He serves as a role model and a hero for our entire city.”
Known to his family and friends as an “overbearingly good samaritan” – such that he made everyone, including politicians, accountable for their acts, said one of his FDNY friends Kurt Lester. Lanza used to propagate the needs of the community to the political leaders such that he made them hear him and act on it.
Earlier in June this year, the City Council unanimously passed INT. 1613 – a local law in relation to the naming of 53 thoroughfares and public places, which co-named this street as well.
Although he spent his early life in Manhattan with his family, he was always a Woodside guy. “He was a friend, he was a Woodside hero,” said NY City Council member Costa Constantinides,”Everyone looked up to him, wanted to emulate him,” Constantinides added. “Jimmy Lanza was a pillar of the Woodside community who left behind a legacy of selflessness, service to our country, and goodwill for his fellow neighbors,” said Rep. Joe Crowley, a Queens Democrat, “Jimmy didn’t like me, he loved me.”
“Everybody loved and appreciated all he has done over the years,” said Lanza’s sister Marian Pennachio. “He would have been completely overwhelmed by this outpouring,” his niece Stefanie added.
This comes as a no surprise to his family and friends. “He was very humble. It would have been difficult for him to stand by something like this,” said his niece, Stefanie Pennachio. “He would have been in Texas or Florida helping people after the hurricanes,” said Assemblyman Brian Barnwell.