Honored In Quiet Dignity: Dual Tributes to FDNY Fallen On A Windswept But Beautiful Day

NY Daily News - October 08, 2009


But for a few exceptions over the course of almost a century, the New York Fire Department has honored its fallen with a ceremony at the Firemen's Memorial on the upper West Side.

The annual program is set for the Wednesday of the first full week of October, and firefighters come by the thousands from across the city and the region.

This sacred occasion was canceled only once - in the aftermath of 9/11. In 2002, the event was moved to Madison Square Garden to mark the 343 FDNY lives lost at the World Trade Center. Yesterday, because of the high winds, the ceremony was shifted a mile away to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

But on a day of gales that was otherwise beautiful, the memorial was not forgotten.

While legions gathered in the church, 28 firemen, mostly from Ladder 157/Engine 255 on Rogers Ave. in Flatbush and Ladder 28 in Harlem, clustered at the pink marble monument and fountain. They stood beneath allegorical figures of Duty and Courage, one a mother holding a fire helmet and her little boy, the other, a widow cradling her fallen husband.

A civilian observer placed a stone on the fountain's rim in the Jewish tradition of marking a visit to a grave. A young fireman spoke about lost comrades, three of whom died this past year.

Then the mourners lined up on a shouted command: "All uniformed members, attention! Salute! At ease." Then they drifted off.

Later, when the service at the church was over, family members came to reflect. One took one of the white roses that survivors had worn and placed the flower in the fountain's basin, where it floated in the windblown water.