FDNY calendar star Santo Ciccarello isn’t all good looks. This lieutenant firefighter was a police officer on 9/11, but soon realized his true calling was with NYC’s bravest. He was asleep the morning of 9/11 when his phone started ringing off the hook. He finally picked up and, at the behest of his friend, turned on the TV to watch in horror as the second plane hit the South Tower. But unlike most people, Ciccarello was unable to just stay at home transfixed to the news. After overcoming his initial shock, he knew that he immediately had to report to his precinct.
Together with several other officers, Ciccarello made it to Ground Zero hours later, where he was assigned to search and rescue. The scenes shown on TV didn’t come remotely close to what Ciccarello and his fellow responders saw. “It was like a third world country down there,” he remembers. “You couldn’t even put it in words. We found pieces and parts of people, rarely a whole body.” Ciccarello continued to work on search and rescue for months, looking for signs of life alongside his father, a retired New York City firefighter who wanted to help with rescue efforts despite his retired status.
Becoming a New York City firefighter was less a shift in career than it was answering a calling. “I was very street smart, so I just got pulled into the police force,” he says. “But I’d always wanted to be a fireman. You’ll hear from any fireman that you ever speak to that it’s the best job in the world.”