Monday, September 11, 2006

Who was Yash Skala?

If 9/11 hadn't happened, I'd never have known who John Skala was. He was three thousand miles away from me, just one more faceless stranger in a police uniform.

But John – or Yash, as he was also called – was known to lots of other people. He was known to the kids at the Ukrainian-American as the guy who taught them to play softball. He was known to his mother as a loving, attentive son. He was known to his brother as a fellow officer, and to his sister as a funny, generous young man. One of his brother officers said of him, "Johnny would give you the shirt off his back, and then he would take you to the store and buy you a pair of pants and shoes to go along with it." He couldn't sing worth a rat's patoot, but that didn't stop him from karaokeing at the top of his lungs whenever a microphone happened to be present.

He was known to his co-workers as a workhorse, taking on extra duty and working part-time as a paramedic on top of his police duties. 48-hour shifts weren't unknown to him. And on September 11, 2001, it all came to an end when he was assigned to the Lincoln Tunnel and the reports came in of the destruction of the World Trade Center. As masses of people fled the terror, Yash ran into it. Grabbing his paramedic pack, Yash convinced a New York cop that he was better qualified to go into the wreckage because of his training, and rushed inside to see whom he could save. The last anybody saw of Yash, he was on the 30th floor of the South Tower, searching for survivors. Then the tower fell in on him, and there was no more Yash. His body, like many others, was never recovered.

Lots of people still won't know who John Skala was. But in those final moments, when death dragged him away from his work saving others, the angels came to know who he was. The man who never sought the spotlight, who did his job – and more – without fanfare, is being feasted in Heaven and honored on earth. I didn't know him, but I wish I were more like him.

There's more about Yash here, here and here.

This post is part of the 2,996 Project, dedicated to remembering those who died in the most despicable attack ever levied at America. Go read as many as you can, and help keep alive their memory on earth.

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