Equally as striking as the monument listing the names of the 343 firefighters that sacrificed their lives on September 11, 2001 are the bricks at its base with the names of the first responders from all emergency services that died as a result of working on “the pile.” As of now, the number of first responder deaths remains at 95, but there are plenty of bricks that will undoubtedly add to that number.
The memorial service and dedication at St. Michael’s Cemetery honoring fallen firefighters, police and Port Authority officers brought together elected leaders, FDNY and NYPD officials, as well as families of those lost for an afternoon of grieving and a celebration of their lives. The event, on Saturday, September 24, began with an invocation by Father Christopher Keenan who read the Gettysburg Address followed by a statement by Congressmember Joe Crowley who commented on the two dozen young firefighters dressed in bunker gear who stood during the ceremony.
“They’re taking up a job that has a legacy,” said Crowley. “Many believed that the fire department could never recover after the attack, but nothing could be more false . . . They have never forgotten those that have fallen.”
Crowley also included an anecdote about his cousin John Moran, a Battalion Chief on Randall’s Island who died at the World Trade Center.
“I’m sure each and every one of you can take out a moment about a son or daughter that you lost that day and look back and smile,” said Crowley.
Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, one of the sponsors of the Zadroga Act – named for police officer James Zadroga who died of a respiratory disease attributed to toxins at Ground Zero – spoke to the long road the legislation took until enacted in January 2011. The act expands death benefits and monitored care for those who worked at the World Trade Center site.
“Who would have thought it would have taken us seven years to pass the Zadroga Act?” asked Maloney. “This bill will save lives. We will not stop until we make sure that it continues to take care of the men and women who took care of us.”
She continued to mention the beauty of the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site and urged those in attendance to take a trip downtown to see it.
Also in attendance was Comptroller John Liu who helped fund the St. Michael’s 9/11 memorial, Former Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Sr., FDNY Chief Kevin Butler, PAPD Inspector Brian Sullivan, NYPD Chief Dianna Pizzutti as well as the PAPD Pipes and Drums, among other special guests.
Former FDNY Chief Alexander Santora and his wife, Maureen who – along with Ed Horn of St. Michaels – were instrumental in erecting the memorial, spoke about the importance of remembering those, like their son, Christopher, who died on 9/11. After encouraging those in attendance to come back to see the additions to the bricks at the base of the memorial, the former chief summed up the feeling of many on hand:
“They have one hell of a fire department up in heaven.”