Steve Steo, an NYPD Detective with the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn, New York, reported to ground zero on Sept. 12, 2001 to aid in the search and rescue of survivors after the 9/11 attacks. Recently, the 9/11 Memorial Museum acquired an artifact that speaks to Steo’s time at ground zero and calls to memory the strange somberness of the holiday season that year.
Steo’s efforts during the first days of the response were personally driven. His good friend, Joseph Vigiano, a detective with NYPD Emergency Services Squad 2, was among the first responders reported missing. Vigiano’s older brother, FDNY Firefighter John Vigiano was also reported missing.
After both brothers were confirmed dead, Steo never relented in his effort to locate them during his six-month tenure on recovery detail.
On the evening of Sept. 18, Steo rappelled into a deep void in hopes of locating his friends. As he worked his way out of the fallen steel, a glittering object caught his eye. This turned out to be a relatively intact souvenir Christmas ornament which was likely once sold in the gift shop at the World Trade Center’s South Tower Observatory.
The ornament depicts a gilded World Trade Center complex set against a gold, star-flecked, deep blue sky, with the Statue of Liberty and Hudson River in the foreground. The reverse side is punctuated by bold, red, letters that read, “Peace on Earth.”
Many years later, Steo met with the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s Associate Curator Alexandra Drakakis and presented the ornament to the museum in memory of his fallen friend, Joseph Vigiano.
By Jenny Pachucki, 9/11 Memorial Content Strategist