The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Update: Faith follows fire chief

In the past nine months, faith has accompanied Daniel Nigro as he traveled — to as far away as the Vatican and as close as downtown Manhattan.

Two weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Nigro, chief of the New York City Fire Department, said his spiritual life helped him cope with the deaths of firefighters, lead the survivors and stay centered (The Lutheran, November 2001). Nigro is a member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Bayside, Queens.

That message followed Nigro to Rome last year when he and others represented the United States at a pro-America rally days after Italy voted to send troops to Afghanistan. "We were in the lobby at our hotel when an Italian reporter came in and asked me about [The Lutheran] article," he says. "This is probably as pro-American as the Italian government has ever been; therefore there are a lot of questions, trying to get our impression on something."

During that trip, the group met with Pope John Paul II. "Certainly I've been to mass more than most Catholics this year," says Nigro, referring to the memorial services for firefighters, which he is still attending. "But there's only one St. Peter's. It was so significant I almost couldn't speak. The pope said he was praying every day for the families of those killed and for those people who continue to work at the site."

As Nigro continues to visit the Manhattan site and guides the department — including 900 recruits — into still uncertain times, the news of his faith keeps spreading. During an interview for a news program televised from the Middle East to New Zealand, the broadcaster asked Nigro about his Lutheran church.

What reporters discover is that faith is important to Nigro in many ways, now more than ever because it helps him get to work every day. "I'm in a better place than I thought I might have been in September, and I feel like I can still contribute," he says. "That's why I'm still here."


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Embracing diversity