New York: A fire truck that rushed to the aid of victims on 9/11 returned to the World Trade Centre site on Wednesday as it was lowered like a huge flag-draped coffin into exhibition space for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
The truck was from the city fire department's Ladder Company 3, which helped civilians escape from the trade centre’s north tower on September 11, 2001. The vehicle had sped to the twin towers from its firehouse in Manhattan's East Village neighbourhood with 11 firefighters aboard — all of whom died when the towers collapsed and their rig was mangled by debris.
Battalion Chief John Moran, who was assigned to the company's firehouse, also was killed.
A crane lowered the 60,000-pound battered remains of the truck, shrouded in a white protective covering and decorated with the flags of the Fire Department of New York and the United States, 70 feet into the site as family members of firefighters who died on 9/11 wept, dozens of firefighters saluted and bagpipers played the national anthem.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, FDNY Commissioner Salvatore J Cassano and about 100 members of the FDNY, including all of the members of the current Ladder Company 3, stood solemnly during the ceremony.
The company's current fire truck, parked nearby on the site, raised its ladder in salute as the crane moved the shrouded truck to an opening in the roof of the museum, which is in the depths of the site where the foundations of the twin towers once stood.
The under-construction One World Trade Centre skyscraper towered over the ceremony, its mirror-like skin shimmering under the hot sun. All around were signs of rebirth and reconstruction: Cranes hovered over the site and construction workers in safety helmets milled around as dust choked the air.
To some, the ceremony was like a second funeral for the Ladder Company 3 firefighters who died nearly 10 years ago.
"It's almost like saying goodbye again," said Carolyn Brown, 47, of Westbury, NY, whose brother Patrick "Paddy" Brown led the firefighters of Ladder Company 3 on 9/11. "It's also more closure."
She dabbed her teary eyes with a tissue during the ceremony, and afterward said she hoped that museum visitors who see the truck will be reminded of the sacrifice that her brother and his fellow first responders made.
"They gave their lives for everybody else here," she said, adding that simply seeing the damage to the fire truck would likely elicit a physical reaction. "When they see that, it's going to mean more. They will see it and feel it."
Maureen Dewan-Gilligan, whose 35-year-old brother, Gerard Dewan, was a firefighter with Ladder 3, also hoped visitors to the museum would react viscerally.
"I would like them to remember that the fire engine was crushed in a heartbeat," she said.
Michael Moran, a member of Ladder Company 3 who got relieved from duty on September 10, 2001, and whose brother was the battalion chief from the company's firehouse who died on 9/11, said bringing the rig back to the trade centre was part of the healing process.
"I think it's a nice tribute to the guys of Ladder 3," he said. He also hoped people would see the rig as a symbol of the firefighters' sacrifices. "They gave up all their tomorrows on September 11."
Cassano said museum visitors will be able to learn the story of how members of the FDNY did their job on that day.
"They didn't ask any questions. They went to those buildings, not knowing who they were going to rescue," he said. "They knew people were in trouble. Unselfishly they gave their lives."
Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, said the fire truck is emblematic of what first responders did on 9/11.
First Published: Thursday, July 21, 2011, 10:44