At about 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 7, Lt. Vincent F. Giammona was at Coney Island, flashing his fireman’s badge and, once again, pushing the limits.
He had just spent the morning exploring the aquarium with his wife, Theresa, and their two youngest daughters — Nicolette and Daniella. They had started back home to Valley Stream, when, suddenly, he turned the car around. He couldn’t go to Coney Island without riding the Cyclone roller coaster.
But the Cyclone would not open until 6 p.m., Lieutenant Giammona was told. He smiled and jabbered about his upcoming birthday (he would turn 40 in four days, on Sept. 11th). Soon, the Cyclone was creaking up into the sunshine, carrying one passenger. His daughters cheered.
He lived for moments like this. Using fake buck teeth, an accent or his infamous Elvis costume, he would transform household errands or roll call at the firehouse into improv comedy. At sporting events involving his two older daughters — Francesca and Toni-Ann — his cheering was an aerobic workout. At Ladder 5 on Houston Street, he taught rookies about high-rise fires and downtown bars. They called him “Lieutenant Fun.”
The morning of Lieutenant Giammona’s 40th birthday, Theresa would hear his voice for the last time: he said goodbye during a brief phone call while hurrying to the World Trade Center. On Sept. 7, though, when the Cyclone started its descent, she heard him shout with joy.