Yesterday we remembered the attacks of September 11, 2001 which killed 2,997 people. To commemorate, our country turns its attention to the ceremony held at Ground Zero each year, attended by victims' families, dignitaries, and politicians (including both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump this year).
Another ceremony takes place in uptown Manhattan each year. Little attention is given to this ceremony at the Firemen's Memorial on 100th Street and Riverside Drive, in part because the monument was not built in memory of the 9/11 attacks. Dedicated 103 years ago in 1913, this monument was erected in recognition of all Fire Department of New York firemen who have died answering the call of duty. For much of that time the monument was under-recognized, a relic from a previous era with its bronze façade of firemen in a horse-drawn firetruck rushing to a fire, flanked by stone statues representing the principles of Duty and Sacrifice.
In the years since 2001, firefighters and locals have remembered the 9/11 anniversary there, bringing flowers, candles, and notes to remember loved ones and to thank firefighters for their efforts. This year the FDNY official memorial saw hundreds of FDNY firefighters in attendance, as well as representatives from the Armed Forces and firefighting contingents from across the country and around the world who came to remember with their New York City counterparts. In the grass along the monument's steps were planted 343 American flags, giving the feel of a cemetery for anonymous soldiers. But those for whom the flags were placed were not left unnamed.
The proceedings began with bagpipes, always heard at FDNY memorials. The ceremony featured the National Anthem, an invocation, the playing of Amazing Grace and Taps, and a benediction. The main focus though was the reading of the names of the 343 firefighters and other first responders who died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. During the 39 minutes it took to read all 343 names, ranks, and battalion/engine numbers, not a sound was heard save the rustle of wind, the low din of distant traffic, the voices of the 9 firefighters reading the names, and a fire bell ring accompanying each name.
Similar to the Ground Zero ceremony, the Firemen's Memorial ceremony was marked by moments of silence, denoting when each tower was hit, each tower fell, the Pentagon was hit, and Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.
Also recognized was the sacrifice made by NYPD and Port Authority police officers, government employees, the over 2500 civilians who were killed in the attacks that day, and the 127 firefighters and first responders who have died since then from World Trade Center-related illness.
While this ceremony was not attended by dignitaries or politicians, it was populated by other significant people. Despite the distances spanned, it was clear that all the attending firefighters and first responders felt connected to the FDNY firefighters who ran into the burning Twin Towers as civilians fled. Like the firefighters who gave their lives that day, the hundreds of firefighters in attendance yesterday put their lives at risk every day to keep their fellow citizens safe. We must not forget their continuing Duty and Sacrifice. Everyday.