Friday, April 29, 2011
Engine 54, Ladder 4 Battalion 9 - When September 11 Becomes Small
Ground Zero is a construction site, more distinguishable as a hole in the skyline of New York than as a footprint of the tragedy that occurred there. That will change as buildings rise and the Memorial is assembled. When that is finished, it will serve as a stoic and solemn place in otherwise harried Manhattan. But right now, it is a construction site.
Engine 54, Ladder 4 and Battalion 9 is not a construction site. It is a firehouse in Midtown, barely noticeable on Eighth Avenue. My family and I only saw it because we were eating across the street as a fire engine was backing in. After dinner, my wife went to the store next to the firehouse as me and the boys paid our bill and walked across the street to meet her. She called us over to look at the beautiful memorial painting on the garage door.
On September 11, all fifteen firefighters that were on duty at this fire station were killed. They rolled through the door that we stood in front of and never came back.
For me, September 11 was no longer about the towers falling, the Pentagon burning or the field in Shanksville. It is no longer about the massive things. It is about a FDNY garage door.
How many times a year do we tell someone where we were on 9/11? We share those stories often. But it strikes me that the real story is about the people who can no longer tell us where they were. These stories are told by a photo on a mantel or a memorial on a garage door.
I remember where I was on September 11. But more importantly, I now know where fifteen New York City Fire Fighters were. They were at Engine 54, Ladder 4 and Battalion 9 - behind the garage door that would soon honor them for years to come.