United Hero:  John Talignani

John Talignani

John Talignani John Talignani
74 years old
Staten Island, NY

Mr. Talignani was flying to San Francisco to claim the body of his son-in-law, Alan Zykofsky, who was killed in a car crash on his honeymoon.

He was a cook, a pizzeria owner, and later a bartender at Manhattan's Palm Too Restaurant, where he worked for 20 years.

His wife of 25 years, Selma, died four years ago. He treated her three sons as his own.

The following is excerpted from an article in the New York Daily News:

Sgt. Mitchell Zykofsky might easily surrender to despair. But he won't.

Somehow he copes with an avalanche of grief.

"Everything's different now," said Zykofsky, 43, a detective in Manhattan's 13th Precinct. "Day-to-day life has changed. In a lot of ways, you become more appreciative of more ordinary things, like waking up in the morning: 'Made it another day.'"

Zykofsky's season of mourning began Sept. 6. While honeymooning in California, his younger brother Alan died in a head-on crash with a truck.

At age 40, stockbroker Alan Zykofsky had found the right woman, a teacher from Hong Kong he met over the Internet. "I never saw him so happy," said the sergeant. "He would just stare at his wedding ring."

His bride, Valerie, survived the crash, but her knees were crushed, her chin and shoulder broken.

Sgt. Zykofsky and his wife, Shari, flew out West on Sept.10 to collect his brother's body in Visalia, Calif., and help his injured sister-in-law.

The next morning, Zykofsky's 74-year-old stepfather, John Talignani, took off for California, a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93. That was the hijacked jet that crashed in a field in western Pennsylvania after a passenger revolt.

"Once we found out that they had fought on that plane, it helped us cope," said Shari Zykofsky. "Mitch said John could have just died an obscure old man. At least this way, he died a hero."

For the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's biography of John Talignani, click here.