FDNY Chief Lawrence Stack was the head of the department's safety battalion when he was killed in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. To this day, his remains are missing, leaving his family without a grave to grieve over. Now they've discovered a unique path to closure.
The family recently stumbled on a vial of blood the 58-year-old Stack donated two weeks before he was killed, part of a bone marrow drive for a child with cancer.
"I guess they forgot about the blood and they contacted the family, and it was like, 'Wow, we finally have something of Larry. And a proper burial,'" said Daniel Prince, a retired firefighter and friend of Stack.
On Friday, thousands of firefighters lined the street outside the Long Island church where his funeral Mass was held, and Mayor de Blasio and FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro were among the speakers.
Afterward, the casket bearing blood vials -- the last bits of Stack's DNA -- were placed on top of a ceremonial firetruck. Bagpipes played as a procession departed for Calverton National cemetery.
It was an honorable tribute for a man who never hesitated to save lives.
"Larry was always there to help. I remember working with him -- if someone was on the side of the road, oh pull over let's see if we can help. That's Larry," said Prince.
Stack happened to be in the kitchen of his firehouse when the first plane hit on Sept. 11. He looked out the window and saw the tower on fire; he rushed out the door and was on the road before the second plane hit.
Traveling from Brooklyn, he and his crew arrived quickly. Stack was saving lives until his very last minute.
"Larry had taken a lieutenant out. And he also was helping a civilian out who couldn't walk. He helped them go out and then Larry was gonna come up through the opening.. but never made it," Prince said.
Stack has two firefighter sons, grandchildren he's never met, and a widow who would have been celebrating her 49th wedding anniversary Friday.
Theresa Stack told reporters last week that she had never given up hope that his remains would be found. About a year ago, her family reached out to the New York Blood Bank after recalling both had donated blood weeks before 9/11. When vials of his blood were located, plans were made for a funeral.
She was presented with her husband's helmet as she left the church, said the family wanted to hold a public funeral "so people don't forget" 9/11.
"I'm hoping and praying that this will be closure for her. And she can go on and just enjoy all the times they had together," Prince said before the ceremony.
Ray Pfeiffer, a retired firefighter with cancer, attended the funeral in a wheelchair.
"Larry was killed by a terrorist," he said. "Whether it was done 15 years ago or whether it was done yesterday, he deserves a line-of-duty funeral and he's going to get that respect. Larry was a good man."