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At Local Fire Houses, A Muted Morning

DSC_0456Ian Duncan Six firefighters from Ladder 11 lost their lives on 9/11. This morning, all was quiet at the station house

A single rose marked plaques remembering firefighters killed in the line of duty. At Engine 28 and Ladder 11, six in all mark those who died at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 – five firefighters and one lieutenant. On this milky gray morning, the station house appeared almost abandoned. The engines stood mutely inside the garage and no men could be seen through the windows. It was a sharp contrast to the frenzy of action as firefighters rushed downtown almost ten years ago.

At a ring of the station house bell, a young firefighter came to the door. He was not at the World Trade Center, he explained, and summoned his colleagues from the back of the station. Kevin Murray, a survivor of the rescue efforts was on duty, but in the hours after Osama Bin Laden’s death, the Fire Department is not permitting individual firefighters to talk to the press.

ROSE cropIan Duncan At Engine 28, Ladder 11.

At the station on East Second Street, firefighters were on duty as normal and seemed in good spirits, happy to chat, if not to comment. Across the firehouse door, the slogan “We support our troops” stood as a reminder of how closely tied New York’s fire department is to the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and the wars that followed.

Just a few blocks over there was a hint at the rawness of the emotions brought up by last night’s news. A tired-looking firefighter on duty at the front desk at Engine 33 and Ladder 9 told The Local that the men there were not yet ready to share their thoughts and were still processing what they had heard.

In all, 26 firefighters from the East Village’s four stations died on 9/11, according to department memorial pages. Across the city 343 members of the fire department lost their lives.

In January, Roy Chelsen, an Engine 28 and Ladder 11 firefighter who was at the World Trade Center on 9/11, died after a battle with bone-marrow cancer. His disease was linked to working in the toxic rubble of the collapsed towers.

In an statement posted on Twitter late last night, FDNY commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano said, “Osama Bin Laden was responsible for killing 343 members of the FDNY on Sept. 11, 2001. Tonight, in firehouses throughout the city, our members are grateful for the news, and thankful to all the brave members of the U.S. military that had a role in this successful operation.”

This morning a post from the Twitter account read, “Commissioner Cassano: #OsamaBinLaden’s death is a relief for the 343 FDNY families who lost a loved one on 9/11.”

Firefighters Recall Spirit Of 9/11 Hero

Engine 28, Ladder 11 Firehouse, 222 E. 2nd St., East VillageSuzanne Rozdeba Firefighters at Engine 28 and Ladder 11 mourn Roy Chelsen, who died Sunday of bone-marrow cancer and was credited with saving the lives of 11 of his colleagues on Sept. 11.
Roy Chelsen, former East Village firefighter & 9/11 first responder, who passed away on Jan. 9Courtesy of FDNY

Already, the south tower of the World Trade Center had collapsed. But as Kevin Murray and Roy Chelsen huddled with their fellow firefighters for safety in the lobby of the north tower on Sept. 11 – debris and bodies falling all around them outside – no one knew what had happened.

“Roy ran out to leave, and realized the whole other building wasn’t there,” Mr. Murray recalled in an interview earlier today, describing how Mr. Chelsen, who died Sunday, saved the lives of 11 of his fellow firefighters. “He turned around, and ran all the way back to get us. He ran through it three times to get us out. He convinced everybody that we had to go because it looked like the north tower was coming down.”

In all, Mr. Murray and Mr. Chelsen worked side-by-side for eight years as firefighters in the East Village. And they were side-by-side again Sunday just hours before Mr. Chelsen died after a long battle with bone-marrow cancer at age 51.

At Engine 28 and Ladder 11 firehouses in the East Village, the mood was somber today after firefighters learned of the death of Mr. Chelsen, whose cancer had been linked to his work digging through the rubble at Ground Zero in the days and weeks after the attacks.

But Mr. Murray, who still works with Ladder 11 on East Second Street, said that the sadness at the firehouse was tinged with something else.

“Of course everybody’s upset,” said Mr. Murray, who’s 36. “But nobody wanted to see him suffer anymore.”
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