July 1, 2008,
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Canon EOS 40D
Canon EF 28-135 f/3.5-5.6 (35mm)
Like most kids, when I was young I wanted to be a fireman. Riding around on that big, loud, red truck seemed like the perfect job. I had little concept of what the job really was: many hours of down time followed suddenly and unexpectedly by life-threatening situations. It’s a necessary, but dangerous, profession that risks lives to save lives.
When I see a fire truck responding to a call today, my first thoughts are hopes that the situation is minor and no lives are at risk.
Nothing illustrates the dangers firefighters face like 9/11 — Sept. 11, 2001 — when 343 New York City firefighters and paramedics were killed responding to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
That day came to mind in 2008 when I walked past this scene just inside the door of a New York City fire station on Beekman Street. Boots, pants and coats were in position for quick use if an emergency call was received.
The Beekman Street station is home to the city’s Engine 6, Station 49, a company with a long, distinguished history and, like many other New York City fire companies, a tragic story from 9/11.
Neptune Engine 6 was created in 1756. Crews fought fires with bucket brigades until an engine could be built for them. In 1850, William M. Tweed was elected company foreman at a time when New York City’s fire companies operated much like social or political clubs. Tweed later became infamous as “Boss Tweed” of Tammany Hall, a Democratic party political machine that controlled party nominations from the mid 1800s through the mid 1900s using graft, bribery and political corruption.
Engine 6 was known by the name “Tiger” because a tiger’s head painted on the back of the engine formed part of its design. According to the history of Engine 6, “It was from this painting that Thomas Nast, the well-known and powerful cartoonist, adopted the tiger in his drawings as a symbol for Tammany Hall.”
The Tiger nickname remains For Engine 6. Note the license number for the truck - GR-RRR.
The company’s Beekman Street quarters are near the World Trade Center site and Engine 6 had a pump designed to push water to the top of the 110-story towers. Because of its proximity to the World Trade Center towers, Engine 6 was a first responder on 9/11 and hooked into the center’s standpipe on West Street at Vesey Street to supply water and pressure to assist firefighters in the building. Three Engine 6 firefighters were killed during the rescue effort. The truck was destroyed in the collapse of the North Tower. It was replaced a year later with the one shown in the photo.
Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.