“Stanley Smagala Jr.”
555 Fitness Hero WOD
- 5 Rounds for Time
- 50 Double-Unders
- 25 Wall Ball Shots (20/14 lb)
- 15 Burpees
Stanley and James Smagala grew up as if they were twins.
The youngest of seven children, Stan and Jim were almost two years apart, but they were inseparable, friends and family say.
They got an apartment in Dix Hills together when their parents moved to Florida 12 years ago. And when Jim got married, Stan lived in an apartment at Jim's house in Commack.
"That's how we were," Jim said. "We did everything together." Six years ago, after working at the same insurance company, Jim and Stan decided to quit and join the New York City Fire Department. At their graduation from the fire academy, Stan met his future wife, Dena. She is now six months pregnant.
The morning of Sept. 11, both men - working in separate units - responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center. Jim, an aide to the citywide tour commander, responded to the North Tower. Stan, 36, with Engine Co. 226 in Brooklyn, went to the South Tower.
"At the time, I didn't know he was working," Jim, 38, said. "But I heard a radio transmission that his company was responding to the South Tower. I remember thinking, 'I hope he's not working,' but somehow I knew he was."
As the day unfolded, the men's older brother, Gary, an accountant working in Melville, took comfort that his brothers were stationed in Brooklyn "out of harm's way," he thought.
But when the first building collapsed, a cascade of wreckage knocked Jim and the other firefighters in the lobby to the ground. "It was like a wave at the beach that just takes over everything," Jim said.
He managed to escape the building, he said, about five minutes before it collapsed, causing plumes of dust and debris that blotted out the sky. But Jim's sense of relief quickly soured as uncertainty about his brother's fate grew. "For a minute, I thought I was dead; it was so eerie," he said. "Of course, I realized I was alive, but somehow I knew that my brother was not OK."
For the next several hours, Jim wandered throughout lower Manhattan searching for his younger brother to no avail. At one point, he came across several men from Stan's unit - Engine Co. 226 - but they didn't know where he was either.
"They saw the desperation on my face," he said. "We all knew at that point that he was in there." Despite getting reports from Jim at Ground Zero, the family remained optimistic, "calling all the hospitals, hoping that he was among the injured," said Gary Smagala. "We exhausted every avenue we could think of but still came up empty-handed," he said.