Al Feinberg. Dave Wooley. Jose Guadalupe. Ed Geraghty. Chris Santora. Joe Angelini. John Tipping. Carl Asaro. Mike Haub. Mike Brennan. Mike Lynch. Paul Gil. Len Ragaglia. Sam Oitice. Dan O'Callaghan.
They weren't Broadway names, stars who lit the Great White Way. They were more than names to the firefighters at Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9, also known as Broadway's firehouse. They were 15 brothers lost in the World Trade Center Disaster.
Over the last week a memorial to these men and the other New York firefighters lost in the tragedy has sprung up around the fire station at 48th and 8th Avenue. Flowers and candles spread from the entrances to the building almost to the sidewalk where passersby stop to look and remember.
Posters fill the empty spaces on the walls of the station and the wooden fence that separates the walkway from the ongoing construction at the Biltmore. They come from all over the nation, from Baltimore and Massachusetts, and from as close by as Park West High School, where students wrote letters of encouragement and sadness to the firefighters. Some of the younger student's art work depict a child's view of the planes hitting the Trade Center or a brave fireman rescuing a baby, while one simply says "New York firefighters are awesome."
The good wishes of strangers are overshadowed by the Xeroxed "Missing" posters hung up by grieving family members. "Please help me find my brother" says one, placed at the station before the fireman was reported as a casualty. "To Danny, We Miss You." "To Uncle Mike, You're Our Hero. Come Back Safely." Among the red and white roses, there were bright yellow sunflowers. Visitors and mourners have left gifts too — personal pictures and paintings of the World Trade Center, a bottle of Corona with a note and cigarettes attached, a child's fire engine toy, a firefighter teddy bear and multiple packages of Lifesavers candies.
Passerbys were invited to leave their thoughts in a heavy black leather book. Although it was hundreds of pages long, by Wednesday, it was nearly full of prayers and good wishes for Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9, whose fire trucks bear the comedy and tragedy masks next to the slogan "Never missed a performance."
Some Broadway shows, including The Producers, have taken up private collections for Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9. For those wishing to contribute specifically to Broadway's fire company, send a check to the E-54, L-4, Battalion 9 Memorial Fund, 782 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10036. General contributions to the New York Fire Department can be made to the New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund at the International Association of Firefighters, New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund, 1750 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 20006.
— By Christine Ehren