Family members and friends of firefighters who died in the Sept. 11 attacks gather in front of the memorial dedicated to the New York City Fire Department after the unveiling ceremony outside Engine 10/Ladder 10, June 10.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Hiroko Masuike
A memorial will be dedicated tomorrow at Ten House, the fire station damaged so grievously on 9/11.
HARRY Meyers joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17, and traveled in straight line from there to Liberty and Greenwich streets in Manhattan, where he will stand ramrod straight tomorrow morning in honor of . . . well, New York firefighters.
The 343 men of the FDNY who died on 9/11.
A volunteer firefighter from Long Island who left his Broadway law office that terrifying morning to join the rescue, and never returned.
All the firefighters who served that day, and who survived.
And every firefighter who has ever answered a bell in New York City - and those who someday will.
That's the point of the memorial to be dedicated tomorrow at Ten House, the fire station damaged so grievously on 9/11 - as was the finest fire service in the nation.
Both have recovered now - Ten House, alas, more fully than the department itself; that wound likely will never fully heal.
But it is time to put the past to rest, and to move on - and that's where Meyers and the Marine Corps come in.
Once a Marine, always a Marine, they say: Marines train together, they fight together, they live together and - sometimes - they die together.
But there is no morbid fascination with death; that is incidental to the purpose of the corps, which is service to the United States of America.
And every Marine, from the rawest boot camp graduate to the most grizzled veteran, knows he is part of something larger than himself, and that he always will be. And that he will never be forgotten by his comrades. Ever.
Such is the ethic of that service, and its soul.
So, too, with the FDNY - and Harry Meyers, who will never forget, either.
An assistant chief of department and Manhattan borough commander, Meyers was a motive force behind the memorial, a profoundly inspiring 57-foot-long depiction of the events of 9/11 from the FDNY perspective.
Its 7,000 pounds of burnished bronze, bolted firmly to the side of Ten House along Greenwich Street, will be there decades - to tell a tale in bas relief of epic heroism in service to the city of New York, but in proper context.
The detail is meticulous, but generic; while each man who died that day is recognized individually, no man or responding unit can be identified in the casting. And that is entirely appropriate: After all, just who lived and who died that day was, largely, a roll of the dice.
Young men routinely present themselves to mortal danger - in theory, every time the bell rings - and while that's simple enough, civilization couldn't exist without such selflessness.
It wasn't just the FDNY on 9/11, of course.
Glenn Winuk, a senior partner at Holland & Knight and a practiced paramedic and volunteer firefighter, was last seen that morning as he grabbed a fire helmet and gloves from the back of a pumper and dashed into one of the towers.
Winuck's remains were recovered the following March, not long after his friend and Holland & Knight colleague, Brian Starer, determined with Meyers and others at the firm that the bravery of 9/11 would be recognized.
They raised $600,000 for the memorial and attended to all the details (not always, sadly, with the full cooperation of city agencies).
And Saturday at 10 a.m., former Mayor Rudy Giuliani will preside at its dedication (while Mayor Bloomberg, oddly, will be in Chicago).
Yesterday afternoon, Meyers and Starer stood in blustery wind and persistent rain outside Ten House, nervous and proud, attending to last-minute details.
Across Liberty Street, gray sky crowded in over Ground Zero - where nothing has been built almost five years on, and where shameful squabbling over a memorial of sorts drags on.
None of that will matter tomorrow, though. The FDNY, like the Marine Corps, looks out for its own.