Symbolism, memory and silence marked the Shelter Island Fire Department’s ceremony on the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
About 20 members of the department, including those from the Ladies Auxiliary, gathered in dress uniforms about 9:30 Sunday morning at the Center firehouse.
A large American flag, attached to a ladder truck, hung over North Ferry Road. In front of the truck, a firefighter’s gear was neatly bundled on the pavement, including a helmet and personal protective equipment of pants and coat. There was a similar bundle at the 9/11 memorial on the firehouse grounds and one at the ambulance barn on Manwaring Road.
Fifteen years ago, a team of Shelter Island Emergency Medical technicians — Helen J. Rosenblum, Ed Boyd, Faye Rodriguez, Chris Drake, Ed Kotula, Peter McCracken, Bud Fox, Ken Klenawicus and Ben Jones — drove to Manhattan on September 11 to give assistance to the recovery effort.
Before Sunday’s ceremony, Fire Chief Greg Sulahian said it would be simple. “We’re here to remember,” the chief said.
Resident Vincent Novak, one of a handful of non-department personnel who stopped by, thanked the chief for his service to the community. He recalled being in Manhattan on September 11, 2001, operating a satellite TV truck for NBC News at Bellevue Hospital, where the injured and the dead were brought.
Skip Tuttle was “getting my hair cut at Louie the Clip’s” and watching as the news came on the barbershop television set, he said. Mr. Tuttle shook his head at the memory.
Art Barnett III, asked why he was attending, said, “Because I’m not in Manhattan. I always find a place with a piece of steel on 9/11,” referring to memorials that have salvaged iron works as centerpieces, such as the Island’s memorial.
“They said it would take a long time to get over it,” Charlie Beckwith said. “But we’ll never get over it.”
The firefighters trooped single file from the firehouse to the memorial on the grass near Thomas Street. They formed a semi-circle in front of the memorial, an iron girder from Ground Zero. It’s only adornment is a brass fire department insignia and the number “343,” a reference to the number of firefighters who died that day.
Chief Sulahian spoke softly, but everyone could hear: “Thank you to everyone for coming to honor our fallen countrymen and women who sacrificed their lives.”
There was about five minutes of silence, and then the chief ordered a salute, before the group walked back to the firehouse.