Commentary: Family recalls their N.Y. firefighter son's death on 9-11

A son dies, pictures stay up on his parents' walls.

A son dies in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, more pictures go up.

Photographs of the firefighter son with the guys on his truck, Ladder 118. All dead. A composite of 343 firefighters from that day. All dead.

Other reminders. Pieces of steel from the building that crushed the firefighter. One piece that is carved into a cross of steel. A flag with names of all of the almost 3,000 others who died. Pictures of the son smiling. Mass cards.

The pictures are up in a Rock Hill living room, hundreds of miles from where the Marriott Hotel stood next to the World Trade Center. The place where Peter Vega — "Petie" to everybody on his block in Brooklyn, and "Big Head" to his buddies because he sure had a dome so large he needed a special helmet — died.

Petie Vega — husband and father of a little girl just a year old in 2001 — died after he and other firefighters rescued more than 650 people from that hotel before it was crushed under the falling Trade Center Tower Number 2.

Petie Vega died after hacking through elevators to free stuck people. After hiking to upper floors and pulling people out, carrying them away on his broad shoulders, under his long arms on his 6-foot-3-inch frame, whispering from below that brushy moustache, surging forward on aching legs, so that others with little ones at home might live another day.

Vega did not live another second.

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