Golf outing held for firefighter killed in WTC attack

Fraternity brothers establish scholarship in memory of Brian Cannizzaro at St. John's University

Saturday, August 24, 2002


The bonds of brotherhood know no bounds, it's often said. For Firefighter Brian Cannizzaro killed in the Sept. 11 attacks at the World Trade Center, a truer statement could not be made, as two former fraternity brothers held a memorial golf outing at Silver Lake Golf Course and dinner at the Staaten, West Brighton.

As members of Sigma Chi Upsilon at St. John's University, John Pisapia and Allen Terjesen forged a lasting friendship with their fraternity president and wanted to set up a scholarship in his name.

"Originally we planned for a small outing and it turned into a monster," said Pisapia, who noted that both the golf and dinner events had been sold out for over a month.

In March both men compiled databases of names from Cannizzaro's wake registry, personal phone book, his unit at Ladder Co. 101 in Manhattan and his former firehouses at Engine Co. 217 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and Engine Co. 55 in Manhattan.

Known for living life to the fullest, the 30-year-old Great Kills firefighter never did anything in a small way.

Once, during a stint as a security guard on the set of the "Ricki Lake" talk show, he jumped up on stage to break up a brawl, to the delight of the cheering audience.

When he proposed to his wife, the former Jacqueline O'Mara, it was with the help of the cast of Broadway's "Beauty and the Beast."

So, keeping in line with Brian's fun-loving nature, the fraternity duo wanted to do a fund-raiser that would celebrate his life.

"We didn't want people sitting around crying, we wanted people to have fun. That's what Brian would have wanted," said Pisapia.

As the planning stages for the outing got under way, two plot twists were added to the event that perfectly complement the memory of Cannizzaro's larger-than-life antics.

Joe Canizaro, a wealthy New Orleans land developer, happened to be watching the Super Bowl game and noticed Cannizzaro's name, which is spelled differently, displayed during a half-time tribute to the victims of Sept. 11.

Intrigued, he contacted the Cannizzaro family, and pledged to match the first $25,000 raised by the outing and dinner, which is expected to reach $75,000.

Two California firefighters who were at Ground Zero when Cannizzaro's body was found in November have made the nearly 3,000-mile trek across the country again as a show of support for their fellow firefighter.

"We saw such a huge loss of life and asked ourselves what could we do?" said Capt. Ray Blackburn of the Los Angeles Fire Department, as he teed off on the Silver Lake greens.

He and Scott Giordano of the Torrance County Fire Department, came to New York the first time to attend a week of firefighter memorials and funerals. While they were here, they bonded with Cannizzaro's Ladder 101, which lost seven men in the attack.