By Jon Hock, Director
On Friday, November 19, while one of our crews was on the World Trade Center site with a world famous architect, the other was 20 miles away with some of the lesser known players in the drama of the rebuilding of Ground Zero.
Hangar 17 at JFK Airport is an 80,000 square foot structure that houses the hundreds of tons of debris from the attacks of 9/11. Among the wreckage is the ruined fire truck from Ladder 3, a firehouse in Lower Manhattan that lost 12 members on the morning of the attacks. Today, members of the firehouse met at Hangar 17 to get a last look together at their former rig, before the truck gets wrapped and moved to the site for its installation in the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
It was amazing to watch as the firefighters greeted the truck like an old friend, at first focusing not on its twisted metal ladder or mangled door, but rather remembering their favorite spots to ride and the small, personal modifications they had made. Smiles were on their faces as they reminisced about their former comrades, and laughter was heard echoing around the cavernous hangar.
Eventually, and I guess inevitably, the smiles faded. Thoughts of funerals, widows and fatherless children began to fill the room, and the eyes of these powerful men began to flood with tears. They felt pride that their rig would have a home on the site, acting as a symbol for all their fallen brothers. But the pride was overmatched by sadness, and disbelief that so much time has passed since they rode this truck with the comrades they lost.
Mike Moran, a driver at Ladder 3 now as then, was off that day, but rushed in towards the site, only to be prevented from reaching it by the logjam of traffic at the tunnel. But his older brother and fellow firefighter, John, was on duty that day. John went into the Towers to save others and never made it out. As Mike stared at the remains of the rig, he spoke of losing his hero that day. But seeing him re-connect with truck he used to drive, I had the sense that the 9/11 Memorial Museum was already doing its job. It was helping these men to heal, and instilling in the rest of us an indelible image of courage and faith – the two things we’ll all need to keep such a calamity from happening again.
NEXT: RESPONSIBILTY AS GROUND ZERO STORYTELLERS