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They walk by the building at 123 Liberty St. in lower Manhattan every day; sometimes in droves. Some walk straight by without looking or stopping at all, oblivious to the building and the significance they're passing. Others walk by, stop, turn and look, then continue on their way. Then there are those that, while walking by, stop completely, then slowly inch their way through the crowd up to the four cut-out rectangular windows that provide the only source of outside illumination into each of the huge, red overhead doors.
Once positioned at those windows, some will, shyly, try to glance inside, while others will, more aggressively, cup their eyes and press their faces firmly into the glass to try and get a better, first-hand look at exactly what's going on behind those massive bay doors. Still others, after stopping and then realizing where they are, get out their cameras and pose either themselves or the people they've come with against the front of the building, then take the pictures that could, literally, end up on the Christmas cards they'll be sending to friends and loved ones all across the country.
The building is the home of FDNY's Engine 10 and Ladder 10, and the street in front of the firehouse has once again been opened, some five years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Located closer than most people realize to the enormous crater (and now the slowly progressive work area) where at one time stood the proud twin towers of the World Trade Center, this FDNY firehouse has become a Mecca, so to speak, to tourists and native New Yorkers alike.
If that's what it's like on the outside of that firehouse on a daily basis, then what's it like on the inside? Larry Phillips, a 40-plus-year veteran of the fire and rescue services, spent an evening after supper recently around the "Ten House" kitchen table. He talked very candidly that night with some of the "Brothers" on their evening tour about their lives even before, during and after 9/11; and, in addition, about their feelings concerning a soon-to-be-released 1:32 scale die-cast model of FDNY's 10 Truck.
That being said, let's listen in on that conversation around the supper table at "Ten House."
Chief Instructor Larry Phillips: Would you please share your thoughts on how it feels to be one of the "brothers" and a firefighter with the FDNY?
Captain Tom Engel, 10 Truck: I've got 20 years on the job and I would trade it in an instant to start all over again. I'd go back to probie school if I could. I've had nothing but a great career over 20 years and I've enjoyed everywhere I've went.
Firefighter Vincent Geloso, Engine 10: I wouldn't go back to probie school; I'd start right here, again, meaning this house. It's the only place to be for me.
Firefighter Jed Tighe, chauffeur, 10 Truck: I wouldn't trade this job for any other job in the world...and not too many people can say they love going to work.
Larry: Did any of you, in your wildest dreams, ever expect an event such as what happened on 9/11 to occur during your career with the FDNY?
Captain Engel: Yes. During the year 2000, they made a big deal out of something happening at the time of the millennium. They also made a big deal of the previous World Trade Center incident of 1993. They knew they were going to come back...it was just a matter of what they were going to hit, where they were going to hit and when it was going to happen. Most of the people in the law enforcement field that I talked with felt it was going to happen before 2000. Yes, I thought something was going to happen, but this big, no, but, in hindsight we should have been aware that it was going to happen.
Larry: For those of you that are new "on the job" and in "Ten House" now since 9/11, did the events of 9/11 play a major part in your decision to try out for the FDNY?
Jed: We took the written test in 1999, the physical in 2000. We were on the list; it was just a matter of time. But when 9/11 happened, it just pushed us forward a bit; otherwise, we would probably have had to wait another year or two.