Engine Co. 22, Ladder Co. 13

After taking the kids to school this morning, I decided to mark the anniversary of 9/11 at my local firehouse. By 8:30 a.m. a large group of Upper East Siders had gathered on both sides of 85th Street. The station’s garage door was open and firefighters were milling about, trying to put a normal face on the day. But their small talk among themselves seemed forced. As much as they appreciated our support, I think they also wished that we’d all go away.

In front of the station—beneath photographs of the nine firefighters from the house who perished that day—sat a table with a condolence book, a framed copy of “An Irish Prayer,” and a plate of chocolate chip cookies. People brought flowers, lit candles, cried.

A line formed to sign the condolence book. “We’ll observe a moment of silence at 8:46,” the captain told the men, referring to the moment of impact of the first plane. They formed two rows in front of the trucks, as a bell rang. A lieutenant called out the order; firefighters in t-shirts and jeans snapped to attention, their expressions blank: they looked tired of their own grief.

In the middle of the silence, a call came in for a possible fire on 79th Street. Without a word, the firefighters broke ranks, put on gear, and climbed aboard their truck. By 8:48 a.m. they had left the station and gone back to work.

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