Bravest, cops honor fallen

Across city, emergency crews pause, reflect


Heads bowed, bells tolled and Scripture was read yesterday at 300 firehouses and police stations around the city.

At intimate, poignant ceremonies honoring brethren lost a year ago, firefighters and police officers on the job remembered their heroes - and the dark day they made their last run.

"It doesn't seem like it's a year later," said FDNY Capt. Mark Munnelly at the E. 51st St. home shared by Engine 8 and Ladder 2, which together lost 10 men at the World Trade Center. "Sometimes it's so fresh, so raw and emotional, it feels like it happened yesterday."

There was Fred Ill, 23, the namesake of Capt. Fred Ill, a 9/11 victim, whom Munnelly recalled by his nickname, Capt. Conscientious.

The son, a firefighter with Ladder 58 in the Bronx, said he, his mother, Mary, and sister, Jennifer, felt more comfortable coming to the firehouse that his father had considered a second home than visiting Ground Zero.

On W. 31st St., an enormous brass bell rang out on the street where St. Francis of Assisi Church faces the home of Engine 1/Ladder 24.

Together they lost six firefighters, as well as the department chaplain, the Rev. Mychal Judge.

Sad echo

The firefighters, the Franciscans from St. Francis, where Judge made his home, and many attending observances at the church stepped up to ring the bell. Brother David Schlatter, who was keeping count, said it would not stop until 2,823 tolls - a bit more than the official count of those who died at Ground Zero.

"We're going to do it for the unknowns, too," he said.

At the home of Ladder 101 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the Rev. Neil Tiedemann began the observance with the familiar words of the 23rd Psalm.

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want," he read as a brisk wind blew through the firehouse, which lost seven members. Those gathered dedicated a glass-enclosed memorial to the "Seven in Heaven."

Fire Chief Tom Giordano, who was a captain with Ladder 101 last September, said, "This has been the fastest and longest year of my life. Unfortunately, I'm sure the feelings and emotions we had a year ago, we all have today. We have remembered those firefighters every day of our lives."

In Maspeth, Queens, Capt. Kevin Culler reminded mourners of the 19 firefighters lost from Squad 288 and HazMat Unit 1. Theirs was the highest death toll from a single firehouse Sept. 11. The duty board from that awful morning hangs untouched from last year, with the names of the dead scrawled in chalk.

"We can never forget what those brave men did," said Culler. "They faced danger and they never flinched. They are to be remembered and cherished."

His voice began to crack, and he quickly turned to salute a new memorial wall to the 19 inside the brick firehouse.

'Too deep for words'

Back in Manhattan, the Rev. Thomas Pike of Calvary Church quoted St. Paul's letter to the Romans.

"The spirit gives utterance to the sighs of the heart too deep for words," he said outside the 13th Precinct stationhouse and Emergency Service Unit No. 1 on E. 21st St., which lost three officers.

Facing rows of officers, NYPD Inspector Patrick McCarthy said he had scoured the quotations of famous writers before settling on the 37th Psalm.

"I have been young and now old but have not seen the righteous forsaken," he said.

Officer David Norman of Emergency Service Unit 1 watched the service and wished Sept. 11, 2001, had been only a bad dream.

"This morning on the way in, I thought, if you could only turn back time, turn back the clock," he said.

The morning of the attack, he was at his stationhouse with Officer Brian McDonnell.

Suddenly, word came of the planes crashing, and Norman took off in a truck, the first from his station to head downtown. Later, Norman had a close escape from the 31st floor of the north tower. But McDonnell, 38, never made it out of the Trade Center.

Now Norman has a 7-month-old son, whom he and his wife named Brian.

With Nancie L. Katz, Jonathan Lemire and Barbara Ross

Firefighters at Queens home of HazMat Unit 1/Squad 288 bow heads at 8:46 a.m., as clock shows.