The Bravest Dead Never To Be Forgotten

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In our civilized lives we take so many things for granted. One of these things is the fact that there is a war going on every day in this city, with a natural and ruthless enemy whose name is fire. Our firefighters, appropriately titled The Bravest, are in the front ranks of this war.
As with any war, there are some days of relative lull and there are other days of planning and fighting, with 911 calls as salvos of the enemy attacks. Through it all, the New York City Fire Dept. has survived and evolved, toughened by flame. In the more than 220 years of the citys existence, the casualties amounted to about 760. Almost all the battles have been won.
On the sunny morning turned pitch-black nightmare of Sept. 11, in the Fire Dept.s very own version of Armageddon, more than half of that number perished under the rubble and flames of the World Trade Center.
No one was left unaffected. Some companies were virtually wiped out, leaving the survivors shambling through empty firehouses in stunned disbelief. Others lost only one or two, which did not make pain any easier to bear. In a ceremony on Sept. 16, an unprecedented 186 firefighters were promoted to fill the ranks of the officers elite that gave their lives to save others. The scene eerily reminds one of the situation in the trenches of the two world wars of the twentieth century, where casualties among officers were so high at times, corporals could become captains in a matter of weeks.
We mourn them all. We especially mourn the two Queens residents, William Feehan, first deputy commissioner and Raymond York, firefighter with Engine 285. Both of them most likely perished under tons of concrete and steel of the first collapsed Twin Tower.
It is a hard time for our citys bravest public servants. It is not uncommon to see them walking or riding by, eyes frozen in grim determination or glazed over with grief or fatigue, or both. Grown men in uniform have shed more tears in the last week than they probably had in the last ten years.
Yet they go on. Like soldiers climbing the parapets to go into the attack, facing the death-spitting muzzles of machine guns, the FDNY regulars and brass, stretching cramped muscles, retching toxic smoke and washing cement dust out of their eyes with tears of pain for their fallen brothers, are ready to jump into another fiery fray to save the lives of others. To save our lives.
We must never forget. Even after the dead are buried, scars healed, the emotional traumas faded away, the towers rebuilt and our enemies vanquished, we must never forget the level of sacrifice that the Citys firefighters are prepared to meet to do everything in their power to ensure that we will go on.
From the grateful city to all of our Bravest: Thank you. We will always remember.

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