By Jillian Jorgensen Staten Island Advance
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — On September 11, 2001, Lt. Jeffrey Walz bounded into Tower One of the World Trade Center like hundreds of other firefighters. He never returned — but now, almost 12 years later, a piece of him will be returned to his family.
“I think for the family as a whole, they feel like he’s home,” his wife, Rani Walz, said Friday.
Mrs. Walz was notified about a week ago that her husband’s remains had been identified. They had actually been recovered in 2002, Mrs. Walz said, and were retested recently.
In total, the remains of 1,637 people killed that day have now been identified — meaning more than a thousand victims have not.
“We all knew he was there, even though we didn’t have remains,” his wife, Rani Walz, said Friday. “But I guess in some way, it’s a closure. I don’t know if we’ll ever have closure. I don’t know that anybody who lost somebody that day ever has closure.”
Mrs. Walz knew the city was still testing for her husband’s remains — the Family Assistance Unit kept her informed — but she didn’t think she’d hear this news so long after her husband’s death.
“I sort of resigned myself to the fact that we weren’t ever getting remains, because 12 years later, why would you think so?” she asked.
When she received the news — after getting a phone call from firefighters her husband had worked with — Mrs. Walz became much more emotional than she had expected, she said.
“It just puts you back there for a while,” she said. “It’s flood gates again, the gates open, you’re sort of dealing with everything again.”
In those 12 years, the Walz’s son, Bradley, has grown from a 3-year-old in nursery school to a 15-year-old who just finished freshman year of high school in Ardsley, N.Y., where he and his mother reside.
Mrs. Walz said the family is considering a small, family-only graveside service.
“Usually you get to fully bury a loved one,” Mrs. Walz said. “This is the most we’ll get. And I guess, in some regards, we’re lucky to get it.”
Lt. Walz, 37, was a nine-year veteran of the FDNY and member of Ladder 9. A graduate of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, he had worked as an electrical engineer for the U.S. Navy before entering the Fire Department, following in his father’s footsteps.
He was a man who loved others unconditionally — and didn’t just say it, but meant it, his wife said.
“I was blessed to have had him in my life. He gave me balance. Everyone said we complemented each other,” she said.
He was patient — “a saint,” she said — and was devoted to his son.
“He was a kind, gentle person,” she said. “He loved his son to death, it was his pride and joy.”
In addition to his wife and son, Lt. Walz, was survived by his parents, Jennie and Raymond Walz, who still reside in Huguenot, where Lt. Walz grew up; his brother, Raymond Walz; and his sister, Karen Ciaccio.