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Engine-911 Return to Quarters
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor

To honor those who died; to console those remain


The horror of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks brought out the best in our citizens who rallied to help those affected and create memorials to remember that day and the people who lost their lives.  Nineteen years ago a group of local volunteer firefighters created a moving memorial and delivered it to a grateful Fire Department of New York. This story is reprinted from the August 24, 2004 edition of the Hearthstone Town and Country. 


            Last Saturday the clouds over New York City burst with a curtain of rain that cleansed the streets as thunder crashed in a drum roll of anticipation, and lightning streaked across the dark sky lighting up the City brighter than the lights on Broadway.  It seemed that this was the way the Big Apple was preparing itself for a special homecoming.  One that was almost two years in the making, and destined to help heal the hearts and minds of those who will never forget September 11, 2001.

Retired FDNY firefighter John Jermyn speaks to the crowd of over 200 gathered for the Return to Quarters Ceremony for Engine-911.

            After the weather wrapped up its show of force helping the city to look its best, a previously rickety old fire truck once owned by firefighter Eric Olsen, made its way across the Verrazano Bridge for a tour of firehouses in Brooklyn.  The shiny red coat of the newly restored vehicle sparkled in the mist left over by the summer rain.  The afternoon drive eventually took it back to Lower Manhattan - to the place where Eric worked on it before that tragic day.

Brother David Schlatter of the Franciscan Center of Wilmington offers a

blessing and sprinkles Holy Water on Engine-911.

            Olsen was an 11-year veteran of the FDNY who enjoyed tinkering with classic vehicles.  As a matter of fact he had 10 different cars and trucks in various states of restoration in 2001.  One of them was a 1962 Ford fire truck that he purchased at an auction.  The truck once played an integral part in the fire protection of Islip Terrace, New York.  When the truck's life in the fire service was over, it was turned into a construction vehicle.  It became abused and neglected, covered with dark, thick tar that dried over the years to the consistency of the steel that once held the mighty Twin Towers.

            Eric belonged to the group known as the "Pride of South Street" – the firefighters of Engine-4 and Ladder-15.  Fourteen members of that proud order responded to the report of a "plane crash into a building."  These heroes climbed to the

The words "All Gave Some. Some Gave All" are

engraved on the brass plate mounted on Engine-911

identifying the truck as a memorial from Milford

Township Fire Department in Bucks County, PA. 

78th floor of the North Tower.  Along the way they fought fires and helped victims of the tragedy escape.  Their voices and actions are captured forever on taped radio transmissions.  Eric and the rest of The South Street 14 never returned from the horror of September 11th.

            Eric's old Ford sat beneath the FDR Parkway, across from the 42-South Street firehouse that now was mourning the loss of her sons.  It became a reminder of work unfinished, and a wound that wouldn't heal.

            Eight months later, a twist of fate brought the rusted hulk of the old fire truck to Milford Township, Pennsylvania.  Two firefighters, a volunteer from Milford Township and a professional from New York City made a pact to restore the truck as a tribute to all the firefighters who died that day.  At the hands of a group of local volunteer firefighters, the truck spent the next 17 months in the Bucks County firehouse undergoing the type of restoration that would have brought a smile of approval from the talented firefighter from New York.  While in Milford Township the truck also became a shrine.  The volunteers wanted to restore the truck as a tribute to Eric, in honor of the 14 members of Engine-4/Ladder-15 who perished on September 11, 2001, and in remembrance of all 343 firefighters who died while bravely discharging their duties that day.

            Now, with the job completed, the truck dubbed Engine-911 was returned home. 

Left to right, FDNY Deputy Chief Harry Meyers, Batt-

alion Chief Charles Blaich, Chaplain Rev. Everett

Wabst, and Captain James Morgan salute while a

replica of the Bell of Remembrance is rung for the

fallen firefighters.

Parked overnight in the same bay where Eric tinkered with the engine, it awaited the official "Return to Quarters" ceremony, scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

            A brilliant blue sky ushered in Sunday morning, and the scent of yesterday's rain lingered about bringing freshness to the air not typical in the Seaport District of Lower Manhattan.  The sun was shining brightly on the front doors of the firehouse, welcoming more than 200 firefighters, family, and friends to the noon celebration.

            I was honored to be on the dais of this solemn event.  Along with several other volunteer firefighters from the Milford Township Fire Department, we made the trip to honor the sacred memory of those who perished. 

            The "Return to Quarters" event is commonplace in the FDNY whenever an engine, ladder, tower truck, or any other emergency service vehicle is put back into service and radio dispatchers can be heard uttering the words several times each week.  But the solemn rites and traditions surrounding the event are reserved for special occasions.

            The event was held inside the large firehouse, on a cement floor usually reserved for Engine-4 and Ladder-15.  The area is big enough to house four of the giant red and gold chariots.  Engine-911 was parked in front of the gathering for all to see her newly found beauty and spender.

Several hundred people came out see Engine-911 while it was parked outside of the Engine-4/Ladder 15 house on South St. in Lower Manhattan.

            After the formality of the introductions, greetings, and speeches came the time for me to say a few words and pass the keys to firefighter Steve Fucile of the FDNY's Ladder 15.  As I laid the key in Fucile's hand and saluted him, I thought about all the times people asked me, "Will it be hard to let the truck go" or "Are you sorry to see the truck leave Milford Township?"  The answer was always simple to me – "It was never our truck."  We were the modern-day barn builders, coming together with our tools to give our time and talents.  Only we weren't raising a barn, we were building a crimson memorial.

            After the truck was formally presented back to the people of New York, the 200-pound "Bell of Remembrance" mounted in the bed of the Engine-911, tolled 5-5-5-5-5 – the signal for a firefighter's last alarm

            The ceremony closed with a blessing of the rig by FDNY Chaplain Rev. Everett Wabst and Brother David Schlatter of the Franciscan Center of Wilmington.  Father Mychal Judge blessed the holy water more than four years ago.  It was Judge, then Chaplain of the FDNY, who was the first of the fallen 343 heroes to be carried from the rubble of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.  The vessel also contained dust collected from the site where the Towers collapsed.

            During the reception that followed, it was gratifying to see more smiles than tears.  Everybody was here to celebrate life by remembering and honoring their loved ones.  There was an outpouring of gratitude from the families of the "South Street Fourteen" who know that every time someone sees the names of each of these heroes on the side of Engine-911, they will know what they did, appreciate their heroism, and be inspired by their sacrifice.  It is my own hope that they are designated role models instead of million-dollar athletes with billion-dollar egos, who represent miserable failures as human beings.

            Almost three years have passed since that terrible day.  Every reason to remember those who died while bravely discharging their duties that day keeps it from becoming nothing more than a footnote in history.  On the side of Engine-911 is a plaque that reads in part, "All gave some, some gave all."  During the invocation, Rev. Wabst expressed his thanks for the Engine-911 memorial when he said, "Some are still giving." 

            Snug Harbor's executive director reported, "In time it will become an integral part of an educational program at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island, in conjunction with the World Trade Tribute and Education Center of the Staten Island Botanical Garden and the memorial Healing Garden."

            The group of Milford Township volunteer firefighters was trusted with the task of completing the job of breathing new life into the truck.  With the work finished and the '62-Ford back among the people of New York, Engine-911's work can now begin. 






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