Thousands Honor FDNY Bravest Killed on 9/11

The steps leading up to the NYC Fireman's Memorial were packed with FDNY firefighters Sunday morning on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

Thousands of other people crowded the street in front of it.

On each side of the memorial, there were a total 343 American flags to honor the bravest who perished in the terrorist attacks.

This year, fire service members from all over the country -- and some form other parts of the world -- made the trip to honor the fallen, but for a lot of FDNY firefighters, this anniversary is very is in a lot of ways the same as the nine others.

"This anniversary really isn't any different than any of the other anniversaries," Lt. Ken Durante from Ladder 58 who helped plan the memorial, said. "We are here every year at the memorial. Members of the 18th battalion put this service together for firefighters and their families and the 9/11 widows who choose to attend."

Durante said that the heightened media coverage and increased amount of out-of-towners can help bring attention to a pressing issue.

"We want to bring the awareness on this anniversary that we are starting to see a lot of brothers getting illnesses post-9/11," he said. There have been some 57 to date."

For Firefighter Peter Regan from Ladder 174, 9/11 held significance even before he joined the department seven years ago.

His father, Firefighter Donald J. Regan from Rescue 3 in the Bronx, was killed on that tragic day.

"The biggest difference for me this year is how everyone is making such a big deal about it," he said. "The tenth anniversary is a monumental time, but to me, it's just another year. I lost my father; it will always feel the same."

He served with the military for close to six years before joining the FDNY and he was stationed in California on 9/11.

His mother, Teresa Regan, echoed the sentiments of her son.

"It's the same every day," she said.

Asked what she misses the most about her husband, she simply said: His smile.

"He loved his job. 'The greatest job in the world,' he used to say."

Among the patches from different departments seen on the jackets of firefighters at the memorial, there were contingents from as far away as France and Austrialia.

Senior Station Officer Eddie McMullen from the Melbourne Fire Department was there with retired Firefighter Terry Barber and fire recruit Jay Haig.

"We've had help when we had the big bushfires," he said. "We return the favor when we can. After all, this is a brotherhood."

Firefighter Dermot Hayes with Engine 80 and Lt. Andrew Hedges from Ladder 144 are both prime examples of how the FDNY has changed since 9/11.

The remaining firefighters had to step up to the plate while the younger incoming classes had to follow their lead.

"They lost a lot of guys and I was in that group of younger guys that came on board," Hayes, an 8-year veteran, said. "We just try to keep the traditions going from the older guys. It's pretty much ingrained in us. It starts from the senior guy in the station on the way down."

Hedges is a 21-year veteran and said he lost many of his closest friends in the towers.

"I'm at a loss of words, really still. It's no different 10 years later than the day of," he said. "It's a whole new generation of firefighters now. There have been a lot of changes on a lot of different levels."

During the memorial, the names were read, prayers were given and songs were sung, all in the honor of those who sacrificed their lives ten years ago.