Last Man Standing

Saturday morning on my way to get my nails done I ran into Johnny Mac.

Who might that be?

One of the bravest, kindest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

It was the oddest thing since I had just been thinking of him the way I do every September 11. He’s a firefighter who miraculously made it out on that hellish day when most of his comrades did not.

I’ve known him several years prior to that having had a crush on him that alas, was never consummated. Who’s cuter than a fireman and Johnny then, now and always, is no exception.

Saturday was the annual German Day Parade down Fifth Avenue; many policemen and firemen participate. As I was rounding Park and 83 Street, I see this fetching looking man in his dress blues staring at me from across the street. I suddenly hear, “Hey Miss Bianchi, is that you?”

How shocking is it when you’re just thinking of someone and out of nowhere they turn up. Some call it the law of manifestation. I call it just plain amazing.

Of course my vanity went into full swing realizing I had forgotten my gloss. Hey, I don’t care if you’re as old as Gramma Moses, a girl always wants to put her best foot, or sneaker in this case, forward.

When I told him he was on my mind he became immediately somber clearly knowing why.

“Every September 11 John, you’re the first person I think of,” I told him plaintively.

“Just one day, that’s it for you?” he said looking down at his well polished shoes. “I think about that day, every day of my life.”

Of course he does, why wouldn’t he after what he saw and went through.

He was one of the first responders finding himself buried beneath wreckage where he, by the grace of God, dug himself out. It’s wild to me that he managed to do this while no one in his immediate vicinity succeeded in doing the same. Imagine realizing this as you surface gasping for breath. He had told me how pitch black everything was as he dug finally breaking through a window.

Looking at him now, his rosy complexion bleating with health, it’s quite hard to imagine.

I took the liberty of asking if he’s had any health issues like so many others who were there. He said he has to go in for tests because he’s been having respiratory problems.

He spent 4 months at Ground Zero sifting through the debris. “I stayed till the final day,” he said, “till they made us all leave.” He then showed me his Survivor’s Medal with two stars that signify his presence on that day.

He then asked if I wanted to ride in the truck he’d be driving in the parade.

Ride in the truck? But I have olive oil in my hair. What if he suddenly turns to me and says, do you smell salad? Let’s just say I couldn’t risk it. A girl has her image to uphold after all.

“Can I take a rain check?” I shyly asked. “Well,” he said, giving me that half smile that was making me seriously reconsider, “it might have to wait till next year. Same time, same corner?”

We said our good byes: a quick kiss, a soft rub on the shoulder.

When I turned around he was in the same position as when I first saw him – back ramrod straight, one knee slightly bent, dark glasses in place.

Did I just dream that I wondered?

Johnny Mac, old fashioned like many of his brethren.

I’m not sure they make that model anymore.                     


About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Thanks.
This entry was posted in friendship, Gratitude, Health, History, Love, New York City, Uncategorized, women, Women and men and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Last Man Standing

  1. merryprangster says:

    Sounds like a man worthy of walking the Brooklyn Bridge for, Susannah. Bless him.


    • Do you know that’s one of my favorite things to do? Have you ever read The Great Bridge by David McCullough? Yes, bless all of them every day for what they do. Wish you’d reignite your page. Keep checking.


      • merryprangster says:

        I was talking about your wedding fantasy girl! Get on that.
        I love David McCullough. I have read The Johnstown Flood and would love to read The Great Bridge. But I am confused about your comments about my blog. My blog of poetry “On The Bus” is fairly active.


      • I’ve been going to merryprankster. Will tune into On The Bus ASAP.

        I’ve read most of his books. Mornings on Horseback about Teddy Roosevelt’s youth is another favorite. I call him the John Lennon of historians. He’s such a wonderful writer. A former teacher. And that voice…ever see Civil War the Ken Burns epic? Or any of his early films like Brooklyn Bridge or The Statue of Liberty? He narrates and it’s heavenly.


  2. How could you not love Johnny? He sounds like a solid citizen…a keeper. I was in NYC about 2 years later and we were walking this big open market. I recognized a fireman (by his tattoo) that just happened to be on a big muscular pallet. He had his apartment re-done on a makeover show that I just watched. No doubt I gave him the laugh of the day when I went over to him like a crazed fan blubbering something about the apartment. It was an out of bay experience as well.


  3. Jeanette Hamilton says:

    Johnny Mac sounds like a wonderful man. Salad oil be damned, you need to take a ride with him next time!


  4. Ed Crescimanni says:

    I don’t care if you have feta cheese and croutons in your hair; next time hop on that truck.


  5. rachel bar says:

    What a lovely encounter.


  6. Patricia says:

    Firemen are handsome devils. I was stuck in my buildings elevator and they came to rescue me. It was kind of embarrassing–2 trucks with lights flashing and about 20 firemen. They were all good-looking and not just because they got me out of the elevator…
    Oh, and next year don’t have olive oil in your hair and be sure to be wearing lip gloss.


    • I’ve made a note in my 2013 diary. Maybe it’s a requirement to be handsome, I don’t know. Will try to get my hands on a manual. Olive oil is great for your hair by the way but you can’t use too much. It expands and you really do smell like you should be served with a loaf of Italian bread.


  7. Jed says:

    Beautiful, evocative and personal piece


  8. D. D. Syrdal says:

    Hmm, sounds like Johnny might be carrying a little torch for you, too 😉 I agree with Ed and Patricia, a ride on the truck is DEFINITELY in order next chance you get!


  9. manty67 says:

    I love reading your blog’s, you know such a wonderful group of people. I don’t know anyone in my neighbourhood, my friends, come from the playground (other mums) or I’ve known them since I was at school. maybe, I should get out more and be more friendly. 🙂


  10. backonmyown says:

    Give Johnny Mac a “soft rub on the shoulder” for me.


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