On the morning of September 11th, I was on duty. My firehouse was located on 143rd street in Manhattan, or as we fondly referred to it... Harlem. Though geographically part of Manhattan, Harlem has always possessed its own unique spirit. The community and its firefighters have always been proud to say they lived or worked there. This distinctiveness sets Harlem apart from the towering skyscrapers of Midtown and Downtown. It's a neighborhood brimming with more history and tales than I can encapsulate here. For a long time, including the year 2001, ours was among the busiest fire companies in New York, where the pros and cons of experience were acquired rapidly.
Working on the Pile: I can't recall the exact moment, but soon after 9/11, FDNY posters began appearing among us on the pile, at Trinity Church, and in firehouses. They declared, "FDNY: Still The Greatest Job On Earth". To me, these posters seemed to emerge spontaneously, but they were incredible morale boosters. I've kept one as a memento, and its message still resonates with me. It reminds me of how little it takes to spark a few smiles.
This day will forever be a challenging one, but it's also a day I hold in high esteem. Not because of any particular action I undertook, but for being part of a department, a country, and a world that united in the wake of an event that rattled us all. I'm proud of the selfless deeds, of the unity, of those who stand up for causes bigger than themselves, and of the families that support them.
Today, and always, let's not forget the fragility of life and the essence of sacrifice.