NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- An FDNY medal of honor named after a newspaper publisher who espoused “deeply racist beliefs” has been renamed in memory of an FDNY chief who was killed on 9/11, Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
The FDNY’s top award for bravery, the James Gordon Bennett Medal, will be renamed the Chief of Department Peter J. Ganci medal, Nigro said Tuesday evening.
Bennett, who published The New York Herald, endowed the award in 1869 to show his appreciation for firefighters who saved his home in upstate New York after it caught fire, the New York Times reported. The department has bestowed the award on an FDNY member each year since then, for acts of valor and heroism.
Bennett, however, “held deeply racist beliefs and used his newspaper to repeatedly express hateful views in full support of slavery,” Nigro said in a statement explaining the name change.
“These views have no place in any society, and I believe we must cease including this individual’s name, and therefore his legacy, in our annual celebration,” he said. “Our highest honor for bravery to a firefighter or fire officer should be named for an individual who swore an oath to serve others, and who once crawled down a hallway like all our firefighters have done to search for New Yorkers trapped by fire."
The award will now be named for Ganci, the highest-ranking FDNY member to die on 9/11, Nigro said.
“In his 33-year career, (Ganci) held every uniformed rank and received numerous citations for bravery, including a medal for rescuing a child from a fire,” Nigro said.
Ganci “is still revered by all of us so many years after his death,” he added.
The name change, the commissioner noted, “is not meant to erase history, and it does not discredit the actions, memory, or valor of the 152 members of our department who have been awarded this medal since its inception.”
“Instead, this important change is meant to help us create a better present and future for our FDNY,” he said. “One we can all be proud of.”