All of Smithtown came to a stop on Friday as the community said a final goodbye to one of its own.
FDNY Battalion Chief Lawrence T. Stack of Lake Ronkonkoma was laid to rest at Saints Philip and James Roman Catholic Church of St. James nearly 15 years after his death on Sept. 11, 2001. The North Shore native, who died helping others in the horrific terrorist attacks of that tragic day, was never recovered from the rubble, forcing his family to hold out hope for a proper Catholic funeral ever since.
A bizarre twist of fate made Stack’s funeral and burial possible on Friday, on what would have been his 49th wedding anniversary with his wife Theresa. While his remains were never found, two vials of blood he donated to a bone marrow bank nearly six months before his death allowed his family to orchestrate a final goodbye in Smithtown.
Lawrence Stack, 58, received a full line-of-duty service on Friday as Smithtown shut down several streets surrounding the St. James church to accommodate the number of people who stopped to honor him, including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and countless more distinguished guests. It wasn’t until a year ago that his wife Theresa Stack said she remembered she and her husband donating blood about six months before 9/11 with hopes of matching a Long Island boy who was fighting cancer. Upon remembering and pursuing that blood, Theresa Stack said she found it in a Minnesota blood bank. That blood was buried on Friday.
“We’ve always honored him, respected him, loved him, and we never forgot him. But now he will rest with the members of the FDNY and the military at the Calverton National Cemetery,” wife Theresa Stack said. “I’m happy, and my family is happy, that we finally have some place to go to. I want Larry’s story to be out there so people don’t forget that there are families still suffering from that terrible day.”
Lawrence Stack’s son Michael, who is a lieutenant with the FDNY with Ladder 176, said he would remember his father as someone dedicated to helping others at any cost. In a statement to the FDNY’s Facebook page, Michael Stack detailed the accounts he received of his father’s last day.
“On Sept. 11, 2001, he was at the safety battalion at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, putting the finishing touches on the [fatal] Father’s Day fire report, when he heard about the plane hitting the north tower,” he said. “He went on the roof, looked through his binoculars, and saw the south tower get hit with the second plane. He put his binoculars down, looked to the other chiefs and firefighters and said, ‘Guys, I think they’re going to need us over there.’”
Brian Stack of Ladder 123 was 30 years old when his father died in the Sept. 11 attacks. He said he was thankful to have been able to spend as much time as he did with his father, and felt for the younger children of other heroes who died that day.
“I understood what happened on September 11 because it’s work, it’s the fire department. Danger is always right around the corner. It’s part of the job. I was 30 years old when he died, and I know that I’m lucky that I got more time with my father than some of the men and women coming on the job now,” Brian Stack said. “They were much younger when they lost their fathers. We were fortunate to have so many years with him in our lives.”
In a statement, the New York Blood Center said it was an honor to help bring peace to the Stack family.
“To every member of the FDNY, NYPD and to every rescue worker: We honor you all,” the center said in a statement on its Facebook page. “We honor those fallen in the line of service and those who serve. You protect life in our communities with determination, vision and courage every single day.”
Lawrence Stack worked with the FDNY for 33 years and was one of 343 FDNY members who died on Sept. 11th. He joined the department in 1968, first assigned to Ladder Company 107 and then Ladder Company 175 in Brooklyn. In 1981, he was promoted to lieutenant and assigned to Ladder Company 35 in Manhattan. Three years later, he was promoted to captain and assigned to Division 7 in the Bronx, and in 1990, he was promoted to battalion chief, working in Queens at the Bureau of Operations and the Safety Battalion. Prior to joining the FDNY, he served in the United States Navy for six years, including a tour of duty in the Vietnam War.