NEW YORK (CBS New York) “It’s the end of an era at the FDNY.
Legendary commissioner Daniel Nigro officially retired on Wednesday after more than five decades in the department.
READ MORE: FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro Announces Retirement
It capped off a storied career in which he had to put aside the grief of losing one of his closest friends on 9/11.
Photo Gallery: FDNY Commissioner Nigro Through the Years
The city said goodbye to a true hero when Nigro stepped down from FDNY headquarters, capping a 53-year career in which he was just one of six people to hold every rank in the department.
In many ways, the tragic events of 9/11 defined his career.
“It was unimaginable, the chaotic scene,” Nigro said ahead of the 20th anniversary last year.
Nigro was one of the firefighters who managed to survive.
“I had started to walk around the building, left the command post to get a view of the damage, especially the south tower. I was in a position where I could find security,” Nigro said.
But his close friend, department head Peter Ganci Jr., didn’t. Nigro suddenly found himself promoted to Ganci’s position, thrust into command of rescue operations from an attack of historic proportions. He said the loss of so many firefighters haunted him.
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“It was our, you know, our best day in how we saved so many people, but again, it was our worst day,” Nigro said.
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When then-mayor Bill de Blasio promoted Nigro to commissioner in 2014, he did something that was a stunning departure from normal staff announcements. The mayor asked Fire Lieutenant Chris Ganci to speak, a nod to Nigro’s connection to Chris’ father, who was killed by debris from the crumbling towers as the two stood together.
“My father loved Dan. He loved her,” Lt. Chris Ganci said. “I remember thinking afterwards how proud my father would have been of you back then, but I know for sure he would be beaming with pride to see you achieve this monumental achievement.”
Nigro choked on Chris Ganci’s words.
“It made his dad a part of today and we all know what that means to me,” Nigro said.
While presenting a proclamation to the outgoing commissioner, Mayor Eric Adams said Nigro leaves behind a legacy of heroism that will be hard to match.
Nigro was also able to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, somewhat of a sad reminder of the bells that rang on 9/11 to mark the times when planes slammed into the towers.
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Nigro followed in the footsteps of his father, Daniel Nigro, who served in the FDNY for 33 years.