T he FDNY Fire Family Transport Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation that provides transportation for the families of injured firefighters. The central focus of the foundation is assisting the families of firefighters in their times of greatest need, in transporting firefighters, family...
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T he FDNY Fire Family Transport Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation that provides transportation for the families of injured firefighters. The central focus of the foundation is assisting the families of firefighters in their times of greatest need, in transporting firefighters, family members and department personnel to and from medical institutions both for care and family support. It will even take family members to the grocery store, if necessary. The foundation has a small fleet of vehicles that were purchased with money raised through fundraising events.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the foundation wanted to honor the 343 members of the FDNY who died in the line of duty that day. It was decided that all FDNY members who perished that day should become members of their own new company. The idea of an “Engine Company for the Fallen” was born. This company would become known as Engine 343.
The Perfect Apparatus
Once the concept of Engine 343 was established, the next step was to find an apparatus that could best represent that hallowed company. John A. “Woody” Woodall of the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Foundation and a close friend of the Fire Family Transport Foundation, had a journal featuring old Mack fire apparatus. After weighing all options, it was decided that a 1951 Mack was the perfect apparatus.
Woodall told Pat Concannon, president and founder of the Fire Family Transport Foundation, that he knew of a 1951 Mack stored in a barn in Wade, NC. Concannon and the foundation then set out to raise the money to purchase this apparatus. With the help of individual donations from friends and family of no more than $500 apiece, the money was eventually raised.
In July 2003, the foundation embarked on fundraising journey to Camp Lejeune, NC, to deliver a piece of World Trade Center steel to be used as part of a memorial on the base. The trip became known as “Leather Helmets for Leathernecks.” While the foundation was in North Carolina, Woodall took the opportunity to bring Concannon to see the apparatus. The rig was in the barn of Chief Jackie Lee of the Wade Fire Department. Concannon and Woodall test drove the rig and found it to be in good working order. They knew they had found the rig that would eventually become Engine 343.
The Road to Restoration
Once purchased, the foundation had to figure out the complicated logistics of transporting the apparatus to New York and restoring it. The Erwin, NC, Fire Department was the first to offer assistance. The members offered to transport the rig on a flatbed from North Carolina to New York. All expenses incurred were donated by various fire departments from North Carolina and South Carolina. The flatbed was escorted by 20 firefighters from various communities in both states who volunteered their time and made the trip at their own expense.
By the fall of 2003, the rig was in New York to begin the restoration process. A local shop would fix all the mechanical aspects on the rig free of charge. Periodic visits by local FDNY units would give encouragement to those doing the work. Every visit reminded them that they were doing something special. Once the mechanical aspects where fixed, the rig was transported to another shop for extensive body work and painting. One of the biggest jobs they undertook was removing the hosebed and booster tank to make room for the benches that are now in the hosebed of the rig. After the final coat of fire-engine red paint was applied, they completed their work by reattaching all the chrome.
Engine 343 was then moved to the quarters of the Manhattan Borough Command. This is where the finishing touches would be completed. Pete Ortell, a retired member of Rescue 3, did a magnificent job of applying all the gold leaf to the rig. He really made his work a labor of love when he donated his design and labor to the project. Tom Hughes, a member of the Chicago Fire Department, paid for all the gold leaf materials. Hughes ran a few fundraisers in Chicago to raise the money needed to accomplish this. The beautiful brass plaques bearing the names of the 343 FDNY members killed on 9/11 were donated by the Roberts family of Breezy Point, NY. This was in memory of Firefighter Michael Roberts of Engine 214, who made the supreme sacrifice that day. The plaques represent the roster of Engine Company 343.