We remember Chief Steve Bonano, who died six years ago today, from 9/11 cancer. Steve was my Executive Officer in Brooklyn South. A great man, with a strong background in policing, including assignments in Aviation (Steve was a pilot) and Emergency Service. He was also a United States Navy veteran and a Harvard graduate. He looked like a big tough guy, but was really a teddy bear. When we worked together, I was going to Kingsborough Community College to take all my nursing prerequisites. Steve never really made a big deal of that, but when he was in the hospital, whenever I was visiting, and a nurse, or a nutritionist or a doctor would walk in, Steve would point to me and say, “Can you believe he wants to be a nurse?” I was very touched because as much as he said it almost like it was some type of joke, I knew that having felt such appreciation for how well they all treated him, he was very proud of the fact that I was considering becoming a nurse when I retired, and he was very happy to share that. So we took this photo of me checking on his IV, kind of as a joke. He actually took the photo. In the years since, whenever I am speaking with someone who tells me they are planning to see a doctor, or look for a doctor, I tell them I have a really good one that they should consider and I send the photo to them. We both laugh after, but every time I do that I remember Steve and his passion, his humor, his dedication to service, his humanity and his sacrifice.
In his 30 years of service Steve was involved in so many high profile incidents, including commanding much of the rescue efforts at Ground Zero. He responded there that day and worked at the scene every day after. As an Inspector in ESU he also handled a job that got worldwide attention and is still being written about occasionally, the securing/rescue of “Ming, The Tiger of Harlem” (link below). Steve had so many great stories but that was my absolute favorite and I loved hearing it every time he told it, more than the time before. He described the whole job and the set up and all the precautions that had to be taken to get to a place where one of the team members could shoot Ming, a 400 pound tiger, with a tranquilizer dart. The best part of the story was how he described when the cop who would fire the dart was being repelled down to just the right spot where he could get his best shot into the apartment, he would say on the point-to-point radio, slowly and deliberately, “Down … down … down …” When he got to the perfect spot there was a hesitation as he lined up his shot and fired. Ming made a roaring charge at him. The officer screamed into the point the point, “DOWN! DOWN! DOWN! DOWN!!” When Steve told that story I felt like I was there.
Chief Steve Bonanno was the epitome of a person of service. He cared, he was passionate, he never took himself too seriously, he knew when to be serious, and when to laugh.