Thursday, September 11, 2008

In Honor of a Hero

In Honor of a Hero

As part of the Project 2996 - today we remember, and honor the victims of the September 11 attacks.

never enough of it
time marches on
trickles away
each day
each day
a new dawn
time marches on
never enough of it

John Chipura knew how precious life was. He learned that lesson at age 21, on October 23, 1983 as a Marine in Beirut.

John was a 21 year old radio operator on his second tour as a member of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment 24th Marine Amphibious Unit. He was stationed in Beirut when terrorists with a truck bomb took out the battalion headquarters barracks and killed 241 of his fellow leathernecks and service men.

John dodged death and came home from that tragedy. He didn't speak much about it, he didn't dwell on the fact that he survived because he was leaving the barracks early to assume his post as a radio operator when the bomb exploded. He didn't dwell on the fact that the man walking just behind him was killed.

John's brother, Gerard Chipura, a fireman with Ladder Company 148, said his brother never forgot his experiences as a Marine. "We didn’t know it, but John kept in touch with all the families from the bombing," his brother Gerard said, "I don't think John ever thought he would live to see anything worse than what he saw that day in Beirut."

He was marked by the experience. "When he came back, he was more of a hugging person. He knew how precious life was because it could all be over in a second." - Nancy Chipura, John's sister

His brother Gerard said John was missing for three whole days in Beirut before he was able to get through to the family and let them know he was fine. He said the 9/11 deja-vu experience was painfully "surreal." "My sister said, 'I'm going to give him three days.' But he hasn't shown up yet. Not this time," said his brother.

John lived his life to the end as a hero.

Gerard and his family find solace in the words that John wrote in November 2000, on the occasion of the Corps 225 birthday: "We Marines are truly blessed. We get to enjoy the sweet taste of this Freedom because we know its price."

“He was a true Marine" . - FDNY Lt. John Atwell

After his honorable discharge from the Marines in 1987, John desired to continue serving the community and joined the city Police Department in 1987. He was assigned to the 72nd Precinct in his old neighborhood, Sunset Park, for seven years. John devoted three years service in Brooklyn South Narcotics and then returned to the 72nd Precinct as a detective.

“As a police officer he was always looking to clean up the neighborhood and help other families. He was very caring, and nothing got in his way or bothered him.” - Gina DeFalco, John's Fiancee.

After 12 years of service to the NYPD, John yearned for the camaraderie of the firehouse; his brother, Gerard, was a fireman, as their father, Anthony, had been. In August, 1998, John achieved his dream.

Following the footsteps of his father, Anthony Chipura, John joined the city Fire Department. "He knew you work as a team, as a unit in the Fire Department -- he liked that,' said his brother. "He always thought people call the Police Department when there's a problem, to get somebody bad, but you call the Fire Department when people needed help."

Graduating from firefighter training in 1998, John Chipura was assigned to Engine Co. 219, Brooklyn, for one year. He then rotated through Ladder Co. 81, South Beach, and Engine Co. 80 in Manhattan. John had recently returned to Engine Co. 219 to once again serve Downtown Brooklyn.

On Sept. 11, he arrived at Engine 219 to work the day tour and was detailed to Ladder Co. 105, which is housed in the same location. After reports of the first attack, he called his sister, Nancy Chipura, who worked on the 69th Floor of Tower 1. He was unable to make contact. Just before responding to the World Trade Center, John called his fiancee, Gina DeFalco, who also worked Downtown, for more information about Nancy. He received no word about his sister when he arrived at the scene at 8:45 a.m. with Ladder 105. “There wasn’t any news,” said Ms. DeFalco, “but later, when I heard that Nancy was safe, I called John to tell him. But his ladder company had already left.” John and the five other firefighters in the truck have not been heard from since.

Witnesses told the family he was last seen assisting in the evacuation of many people from Tower 2. "He was inside when it collapsed," said his brother. "I know he was looking for my sister."

Mr. Chipura and Ms. DeFalco, who met through a friend in the Fire Department, had planned to marry just six weeks after Sept. 11. "Getting married was the sole focus of his being for the last few months," said his brother. "He was 39-years-old and finally found the right girl. He held her so close to his heart."

Gerard Chipura said his brother was always trying to help people and make them "feel good." "He wanted to make everybody happy. He didn't want anybody to be upset," said his brother. "When John was not serving the community, he was serving his family and friends. He was a great conversationalist, problem solver, hard worker and friend," said his brother. "John embraced hobbies such as country dancing and motorcycling because he liked the sense of community he found."

John Chipura was a mentor for many at Boy Scout Troop 21. He was a member of the troop since 1974 and went on to serve as assist scout master until he was lost in the attack. He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Iwo Jima Association and the Beirut Veterans Memorial Association. John was also a member of St. Joseph and St. Thomas Parish, Pleasant Plains.

His mother, Jane Chipura, died in 1994 and his father, Anthony, died in 1996. In addition to his brother, Gerard, and his sister, Nancy Chipura, surviving are his twin sister, Susan Cohen; another sister, Eileen Cella; and several nieces and nephews. John also left behind the love of his life, Gina DeFalco.

Dear John,

In the blink of an eye
Our lives went awry
Not a day has gone by
That we all do not cry

For what we had
For what was planned
For what took place
For what was yet to be

For births, promotions, holidays, birthdays,
graduations, bar mitzvahs
Celebrated without you, but always thinking of you
Another blink of an eye

And a year has gone by
How can it be?
It went so fast and yet so much has passed
So many tears, can it only be a year?

Lives went on, go on, different, not the same
We try, we share, we wonder why
We try to make sense of that blink of an eye
We try to make each blink count

We try to do what you would want us to
We try to make that blink of an eye
Mean something.

Help us, show us, tell us
Be there as you always were
In our hearts, in our thoughts
In every blink of our eyes.

With all our love always,

Your family, friends, fiancé and Mom-to-be

Except for the short poem at the beginning of this post, none of these words are mine. They are culled from various articles on the internet. I have never met John Chipura, but I wish I had the opportunity to do so. In life, John touched so many lives, not only his family and friends, but also, every person he came into contact with. Serving as a Marine, John protected our freedom, and as police officer and a fireman, John helped make so many people safe.

I feel a special kind of love for John Chipura, and I thank G-d for men like him.

This Tribute was originally posted on September 11, 2006, and is reposted today as part of this year's Project 2996. The original post can be found here.

His resting place shall be in the Garden of Eden.
Therefore, the Master of mercy will care for him
under the protection of His wings for all time
And bind his soul in the bond of everlasting life.
God is his inheritance and he will rest in peace
and let us say Amen.

Posted by LindaSoG at September 11, 2008 12:01 AM


  1. Great portrait. That day, for all its horrors, brought out some amazing things in people

    I was a mile or two from the Pentagon working in an elementary school.

  2. Anonymous4:23 PM


    Thank you for your service.
    Never forget the comrades you
    lost in Beirut,1983.


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