Honoring Our Front-Line Heroes

This fall, the Scottish Rite, NMJ is honoring our first responders. Our Brothers who serve and save others truly exemplify our core value of Service to Humanity. From the September 11 attacks to the COVID-19 global pandemic, first responders have always been the front-line heroes of our communities. Each week, we’ll be sharing their stories and celebrating their service.

Meet Brother Steven Stefanakos, 33°: First Responder at Ground Zero

Discover more stories like Steven’s when you request a member of our First Responders Speakers Bureau to present at one of your Masonic events.

Today we’re sharing the story of Brother Steven Stefanakos, 33°, from the Valley of Rockville Centre. Illustrious Brother Stefanakos is a detective at the New York Police Department and was one of the first responders at Ground Zero during the devastating attacks of 9/11. His life was saved by a split-second decision.

Many remember where they were the morning of September 11, 2001. For Stefanakos, he was at Ground Zero, bearing witness to the single deadliest terror attack in American history.

A police officer walks along the 9/11 memorial
Brother Stefanakos walks around the location where the Twin Towers once stood

"It started off slow and you heard each floor as it pancaked down, slowly into each other, into each other," said Stefanakos. "A minute saved my life." Soon, there was nothing but rubble left of the towers.

"I knew where our guys were going and that was the first thing that I thought of -- oh my God, we have people in those buildings," Stefanakos said.

Prior to the second tower’s collapse, Stefanakos, together with his partner and two fellow officers, were tasked to go to Ground Zero on two separate missions. Stefanakos and his partner were to head into the second tower, Langone and Talty were to assist with roof rescues.

At the last second, the officer duos switched roles.

"’We'll take that stuff, we'll see you later, be safe,’ those were the last words Tommy Langone said to me," Stefanakos said.

Langone and Talty were killed. Stefanakos says they were two of the most innovative, compassionate officers he has ever known.

A police officer stands beside the 9/11 memorial
Brother Stefanakos stands beside the 9/11 memorial where his comrades’ names are etched

"I have a responsibility to them, to their families and to their memory,” Stefanakos said. “When we say we'll never forget, we will never forget.”

Today, he carries on their legacy by continuing his courageous work with the NYPD, as well as by mentoring and training younger officers and helping others like himself who struggle with 9-11 related illnesses.

Despite the trauma of 9/11, Brother Stefanakos has managed to find a silver lining.

“The feats of bravery and resilience of the families, that's what fills my heart," Stefanakos said.

Credit: This blog is written based on an interview with Stefanakos and ABC 7 News NY.

First Responders Speakers Bureau

We have many first responders among our Scottish Rite brethren. Learn more about these brave men of courage and service in our series of profiles we will feature this fall. In fact, a First Responders Speakers Bureau has been established, and our Brothers profiled here are just a few who are available by request to present at your local event.

Visit the Leadership Resource Center where you can download the Speakers Bureau Directory which lists the available speakers in your state.