Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A 9/11 "Picture Memorial" That Lives Alongside The Survivors

Sadly, New York City still does not have an "official" memorial honoring the heroes who gave their lives trying to save others at The World Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001. It's been almost six years now and there is still much dithering going on. In late 2006, ground was broken for the new Freedom Tower—on a site that will include memorials. But you can't go stand in front of a memorial yet. And, doubtless, you won't be able to for years.

Frustration and delay. That's what happens when Big Politics and Big Money get mixed up with the memorial-building business.

It's a different story in my midtown neighborhood, where we're blessed with some take-charge firefighters on East 51st Street. Their firehouse is designated Engine 8, Ladder 2, Battalion 8 and it's located four miles away from where the towers stood—a number of Manhattan firehouses were situated much closer to the scene. Engine 8, Ladder 2 may have stood further away, but they lost ten heroic men on 9/11.

The men in our firehouse wanted to honor their fallen brothers. And so they designed (themselves) and erected (themselves) a powerful memorial that stands just inside the always-open firehouse doors. I get a little choked up every time I walk by on the sidewalk and look inside. The memorial uses the emotion of pictures that frame a peaceful, back-lighted display made of stained glass. You see the ten faces and ten names of the firefighters who perished that day. You look at them as real people—real heroes. Mostly, they were young men, many with families, and they left this world much too soon.

Last week, I stopped by the firehouse and asked one of the men to tell me about the memorial.

"Did the city give you the budget to build this?" I asked.

He smiled and looked at me like I was a little daft. "No, the guys paid for it."

He continued: "Once the city gets involved in something like this, it gets all screwed up."

"The stained glass is beautiful," I said. "Do you mind if I ask what you had to pay for that?"

"One of the guys has a father in the stained-glass business," he said. "We didn't pay anything."

It is a potent, compelling memorial. The ten firefighters it honors are listed below. May God bless them:

Chief Tom DeAngelis, Battalion 8
Capt. Fred Ill Jr., Ladder 2
Firefighter Tom McAnn, Battalion 8
Firefighter Dan Harlin, Ladder 2
Firefighter Dennis Mulligan, Ladder 2
Firefighter Carl Molinaro, Ladder 2
Firefighter Denis Germain, Ladder 2
Firefighter George DiPasquale, Ladder 2
Firefighter Mike Clarke, Ladder 2
Firefighter Rob Parro, Engine 8

I'm sure that whenever today's firefighters jump on their trucks to answer a call, they take a quick glance to their right and look at their fallen brothers.

And those brothers always look back.