From Police Heroes, a book by author Chuck Whitlock:
Officer John Skala, known as “Yasha” to his friends, enjoyed making people laugh and being with his friends. Well know for his humor and hospitality, his annual Christmas party was open to everyone.
Born in Passaic, New Jersey, Skala graduated from Clifton High School in Clifton, New Jersey. He attended Metro Technological Institute in Fairfield, New Jersey and the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.
The thirty-one-year-old Clifton resident was an eight-year veteran of the Port Authority. He was the recipient of two Meritorius Duty Medals for exemplary police actions. A hard worker, he was also a paramedic for the Clifton/Passaic Ambulance Corps as well as a volunteer for the New Jersey Special Olympics and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. Skala was a member of the New Jersey Honor Legion, a police organization whose membership is limited to those who have performed heroic acts.
Portraits of Grief, The New York Times
Always Time for His Friends
John Skala enjoyed himself, but it was important that he made sure everyone else was having fun before he could get comfortable. “He loved making people laugh,” said his sister, Irene Lesiw. “If he didn’t see you smiling, he would try to make you smile before he would smile.”
Officer Skala, 31, lived in Clifton, N.J., and was a Port Authority police officer assigned to the Lincoln Tunnel, and also worked part-time as a paramedic in New Jersey. He was called to the trade center after the towers were attacked.
Yash, as his friends called him, was well known for his good humor and hospitality. He would put in a 48-hour shift but still find the time to have some fun with his friends. He could not hold a tune, but he loved to sing. At karaoke bars or at weddings, he would grab the microphone and break into song. Every year, he threw a Christmas party at his house open to everyone and anyone.
When he was young, he had a propensity for getting into mischief, like sneaking out in the middle of the night and driving around in his parents’ car before he was even 16. “He was ahead of his time,” said his sister.