September 11 Memorial & Wreath Laying Ceremony
The September 11 Memorial is a small room within the Fire Museum, which is the FDNY’s official museum, where hundreds of artifacts document the history of the New York City Fire Department. The memorial commemorates the 343 firefighters that lost their lives in the attack and the recovery work and it is the first permanent memorial of its kind [INT 01]. It features “a sky-lit tribute to the heroes of 9/11” which “includes a black marble and tile memorial with pictures of the firefighters lost in the attacks; cases displaying tools used and items recovered from the Ground Zero recovery effort; a video and interactive computer station where visitors can digitally browse profiles and photographs of the fallen, newspaper coverage of the attacks and images of nationwide tributes to the FDNY; and a wall-size timeline chronicling that day’s tragic events” [INT 01].
The ceremony was opened by the director of the Fire Museum, Ms.Linda Burke, who welcomed all officials, such as Commissioner Cassano, firefighters from Canada, representatives of the military, retired Police Lieutenant Marc DeLise and visitors. Her greeting words were followed by the National Anthem, sung by firefighter Regina Wilson, followed by a moment of silence to commemorate those who were killed in the attacks nine years earlier. Ms Burke then gave the podium to Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano, who was appointed Chief of Operations shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and played a “crucial role” in rebuilding the Department after 9/11 [INT 02]. He opened his speech with words of welcome to all those present and with remarks on the importance of that day. On that “solemn day,” as Cassano expressed it, those who gave their lives on September 11 should be commemorated, but it was also a day on which it should be remembered that the nation can be reborn again. With this seemingly typical optimism and the belief in the ability to “turn it around” with which New Yorkers deal with 9/11, Cassano opened his speech. He referred to the “Tour of Duty,” a 600 mile run from Los Angeles to New York City which was completed on the morning of September 11, 2010 by Australian and American firefighters. Its purpose was to remember those who lost their lives, to “honour their sacrifice, respect their courage, and appreciate their commitment to service and devotion to duty” [INT 03], but also to “acknowledge emergency services globally” and to “remember everything that is good about humanity” [INT 03]. This showed, so Cassano, that “the sacrifices we made on September 11 are not forgotten” (Video). He further stressed the solidarity that day has brought about and what has come out of it:
It also shows us of all the friends and support that we’ve had, not only from New York City, New York State, the United States, from all over the world that helped this Department in our darkest day, get through the worst time, to rebuild and be reborn. Nine years later, we have stronger, better prepared, better trained and better equipped firefighters because of a lot of hard work from members in the department, but certainly from outside the department, and that’s evidence [sic] today with your presence (Video).
He ended his short speech by pointing out the importance of the museum, not only because of the memorial that ensured commemoration of the “sacrifices” that had been made, but also because it records the Fire Department’s history.
Commissioner Cassano’s speech was followed by the wreath-laying, carried out by the ceremonial officer and Cassano, accompanied by a performance of “Amazing Grace” by a bagpiper from the FDNY Emerald Society [INT 01]. This was followed by the introduction of former Police Lieutenant Marc DeLise from Oak Brook, Illinois, who had just finished his so-called “Road to Remember” from Chicago to New York when he arrived at Ground Zero on that day. With this walk, he raised money for the children left behind by firefighters, military personnel and police officers who died in the line of duty in the attacks (INT 04). This fundraiser is held by the Kids in Need Foundation, for which Mr DeLise is a volunteer. As Ms Burke expressed, DeLise’s message is “to never forget the victims, their children, family and friends they left behind” (Video). DeLise then went on to tell the story of his trip, during which he stopped at fire houses, a military base and police departments and which showed him, as he stated, that “Americans are the best.” He grounded this in the experience in the “warmth” and solidarity that he was welcomed with by the firefighters, police officers and military personnel he met during his journey. This again shows the concentration on the positive consequences of 9/11, the solidarity, bravery and heroism that now prevails or is meant to prevail on peoples’ minds, as the emphasis of the memorials and organizations suggest.
The following video gives an impression of the ceremony.
[INT 01] “New York City Fire Museum 9/11 Memorial and Wreath Laying.” Fire House. 28 August 2010. Web. 29 January 2011.
[INT 02] “Salvatore J. Cassano. 32nd Fire Commissioner City of New York.” New York City Fire Department. 2010. Web. 29 January 2011.
[INT 03] “About US: The Facts – Tour of Duty.” Tour of Duty. N. d. Web. 29 January 2011.
[INT 04] “Welcome to Road to Remember.” Road to Remember. N. d. Web. 29 January 2011.
Last updated: February 17, 2011