What to Know
FDNY firefighter James Lanza died last week after being diagnosed with brain cancer last fall; it was considered 9/11-related
Lanza, who was from Woodside, Queens, but worked in an East Harlem firehouse, helped pull 16 survivors out of a stairwell on 9/11
He was active in neighborhood and civic organizations, and also volunteered with the Red Cross and Wounded Warriors
The city is saying goodbye to Sept. 11 hero and veteran FDNY firefighter James Lanza, who died last week of a 9/11-related cancer.
Hundreds of firefighters, military veterans, family and friends gathered at a church in Woodside, Queens, where Lanza grew up and had a home. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro was also paying his respects Wednesday.
Lanza's firehouse -- Engine 53, Ladder 43, known as "El Barrio's Bravest" -- was in East Harlem, and on Sept. 11, Lanza and fellow firefighters pulled 16 people out of the rubble alive. The survivors had been in a stairwell, now known as Miracle Stairwell B. Lanza then spent months continuing to dig through the rubble in an effort to recover victims.
Doctors diagnosed him with brain cancer last November. It's considered a 9/11-related cancer.
During his 30 years with the FDNY, Lanza assisted in the search-and-recovery mission in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, served on the board of the FDNY Fire Family Transport Foundation and volunteered with the Red Cross.
Lanza was also a Vietnam War veteran who served in the Navy. Friends and colleagues say he tried to remain active: he was commander for American Legion Post 1836 in Queens, and volunteered with the Wounded Warrior Project. Lanza had bought Yankees tickets for the season; those tickets will be donated to Wounded Warrior Project.
"I don't know where he found the time to be involved with so many civic organizations and neighborhoods," said retired Marine Corporal Kenneth Smith.
"After him, God broke the mold. There will never be another one like him."
Neighbor and friend Elsy Arana recalled how Lanza would always say hello to everyone and was often out and about in the neighborhood.
"That's how I met him. [He'd say] 'hello' and hug you," she said.
He was an accomplished scuba diver, and enjoyed spending time on the beach, according to his obituary.
The 71-year-old Lanza is survived by his sister and his nephews and niece, along with a "host of friends and people whom he has helped over the years," his obituary states.
Lanza was to be buried at the Long Island National Cemetery in Pinelawn.