Wearing their dress blues, current and retired firefighters stood silently at attention in the firehouse's open bay doors at 8:46, 9:03, 9:37, 9:59, 10:07 and 10:28 a.m. — the times that American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the Twin Towers, American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field and each Twin Tower collapsed.
"It's a somber day," Lt. Sean Murray said. "After 11 years, there's nothing wrong with remembering, and it's also a time for people to gather. It's good to see people back."
Framed photos and a banner at the back of the firehouse showed the faces of the "Seven in Heaven" who died 11 years ago: Lt. Joseph Gullickson and firefighters Patrick Byrne, Salvatore Calabro, Brian Cannizzaro, Thomas Kennedy, Joseph Maffeo and Terrence McShane — none above age 40.
"We come to work every day and we walk in the shadow of these men," Lt. John Castronovo said. "Very big shoes to fill."
Among the firemen stood a deputy chief from nearly 900 miles away: Tim Nance, of the Braceville and Plainfield fire departments in Illinois. Friends with several New York City firefighters before the attacks, Nance flew to the city to work the pile as soon as flight restrictions were lifted.
"I was right there when the Ladder 101 rig was pulled out," he recounted. It was then he decided to contact the firehouse directly to help any way he could, and he's attended every memorial service at Engine 202/Ladder 101 since.
"As long as I can make it, even if it's in a wheelchair, I'll be here," Nance said. "Firefighters all over the country, all over the world, we have a bond. When our brothers are in trouble, you do whatever you can to help."