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His intense schedule didn’t leave much time for socializing, yet Johnny always managed to find some time for friends, even if only to fit them in during a one hour break between jobs. He shared a special relationship with his brother, Detective Michael Skala, because as Michael puts it, they were able to communicate on two levels: as brothers, and as brother police officers. They was a powerful bond between the brothers, one that one that allowed them to show affection for each other without embarrassment.

According to Michael and his sister Irene, Johnny was highly resourceful, well trained, and strong. That’s why, when Johnny’s unit was called to the World Trade Center, and when Michael learned that his brother was among the missing, he waited until midnight before telling their mother. Michael and his sister Irene figured that if anyone were going to survive in the wreckage of the Twin Towers, it would be Michael. They knew that Johnny had come in and out of the building several times helping others escape. Yash had “pulled rank” on a fellow police officer, taking his “Scotty Pack” breathing apparatus, saying his training as a paramedic better qualified him for the rescue mission. The best information they have been able to glean from the chaos that reigned that fateful morning was that Johnny was seen on the 30th floor doing a floor sweep when the South Tower fell.

Irene has been spending much of the last year learning more about her brother Johnny than she ever knew. She had no idea that he had touched so many lives, or that he had done as many things as he did in his short 31 years on this earth. Not a day passes without someone coming up to the family to say how much they appreciated Johnny, how grateful they are for the help he gave them, how much he is missed. It is almost as if Johnny fit as many hours into the day to help others as he could because knew his life would be cut short.

Slawka Skala, Johnny’s mother, takes solace in the pride that she has for her son, and the love she knew he had for her. The last time they saw each other, just two days before the tragedy, Johnny kissed his mother good by and told her to take care of herself. Then he turned and kissed her a second time, saying, “You take care of yourself, okay?” After getting into his car, Johnny called his mother over to the car and kissed her yet a third time, and repeated that she should be careful. At the time, Mrs. Skala thought nothing of it, but now, as Irene puts it, “Who knows, who knows?

The number of services and awards ceremonies that the Skala family has attended over the last year has been exhaustive. Among the most treasured awards, and there have been many over the past year, are an Iron Cross given to them by CYA and the Medal of Valor the highest award given to police officers. Other items awarded range from the Federal down to local governments, in addition to many organizations that wanted to honor John Skala’s memory. All of the memorials have been a source of strength as well as extremely demanding, both emotionally and physically. At each event, they are reminded of their brother’s courage. But “the hurt, and the anger, and the sadness” resurfaces with each reminder of how Johnny died.
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