Written by Melissa Argueta Friday, 23 September 2011 00:00
An ice hockey jersey, a set of Irish bagpipes, a beloved pair of Timberland boots are just some of the personal mementos that once belonged to the 18 active Nassau County firefighters who perished on Sept. 11 and are now part of a new exhibit held in Garden City.
Last week, the Nassau County Firefighter’s Museum opened its new 5,000-square-foot exhibition, entitled “Lives of Service; Celebrating the Heroes of September 11.” While many 9/11 exhibits are taking place throughout New York this month, Museum Director Alana Petrocelli explained that the Nassau County Firefighter Museum’s exhibit focuses on the personal lives and stories of the local residents who died on that tragic day. A year in the making, the monumental project was the brainchild of Firefighter Museum President Angelo Catalano.
“He was really the one who said we should honor the volunteers, and from there it just spiraled and we really wanted to make it something special for them and this is where they belong. This is where their home was so we wanted to do something to recognize that,” Petrocelli said.
Through extensive research and help from several fire department chiefs, the Fire Commission and many firefighters’ families, the exhibit displays unique artifacts ranging from Squad 1’s door to Bethpage firefighter Brian Hickey’s helmet, which were both found at the World Trade Center site. Among the most interesting parts of the exhibit are the personal items of the firefighters. “We have Tommy Langone’s Timberland boots because that’s what he always wore,” Petrocelli said.
“The exhibit really tells the story of their lives. They didn’t die just that day. They were people; they were friends; they were fathers; they were sons, and we really wanted to portray that,” Petrocelli explained.
Visitors will be struck by the centerpiece of the exhibit, which displays a series of memorial panels, accompanied by a photo and brief biography highlighting each of the 18 firefighters who perished, surrounded by a replication of the Twin Towers in hanging strands of metal beads.
Also included is a timeline of the events of Sept. 11, provided by the New York State Museum. Additionally, the exhibit features news coverage and footage, videos, and various interactive places to capture family members’ and friends’ thoughts and reflections.
“This one-of-a-kind display will honor the sacrifices made by the active Nassau County volunteer firefighters who lost their lives on that day, as well as the impact the event had on our entire region, especially on the fire service,” said Museum President Angelo Catalano. “The exhibit will also help the Museum’s mission to educate young volunteers who are now turning 18 years of age and joining their local fire departments, who were only eight years old at the time of the tragedy,” he added.
According to Petrocelli, the families of the fallen firefighters have been involved in the process all along the way and finally had an opportunity to preview the exhibit last week. “It was an emotional night but ended on a positive note. Everybody said ‘this is where they belong; this is where they were.’ A lot of them were born and raised in Nassau County, whether they were FDNY or NYPD they still volunteered for their local communities, so they were career firefighters as well as volunteers,” she said.
Of all exhibits the museum has hosted, Petrocelli said this has been one of the most personal for everyone involved with its creation. “You read the stories of their lives and you remember them,” she said. “It’s something special and emotional and, definitely, I think we’ve done a good job of telling their life stories,” she said.
For tickets or more information on the exhibit, call 516-572-4177 or visit www.ncfiremuseum.org.
• Adam Rand, Bellmore
• Brian Hickey, Bethpage
• Durrell Pearsall, Hempstead
• George Howard, Hicksville
• Jonathan Ielpi, Great Neck
• Joseph Hunter, So. Hempstead
• Keith Fairben, Floral Park
• Kevin Prior, Bellmore
• Lee Fehling, Wantagh
• Michael Kiefer, Franklin Square
• Peter Langone, Roslyn Heights
• Thomas Langone, Roslyn Heights
• Richard Muldowney, Freeport
• Robert Deangelis, West Hempstead
• Ronald Kerwin, Levittown
• Ronnie Gies, Merrick
• Thomas Hetzel, Elmont
• Thomas Jurgens, Lawrence