Today’s news:

Maspeth gives memorial to devastated firehouse

The city’s premier hazardous materials firefighter company, HazMat 1, is located in Maspeth for the simple reason that it lies at the physical center of a city of 8 million people.

Ironically, in being at the heart of New York, Maspeth’s firefighters were devastated in the terrorist attacks one year ago.

On Saturday, more than a thousand people gathered to dedicate a memorial to the 19 firefighters of Maspeth’s firehouse and six Maspeth residents who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

The memorial depicting the skyline of Lower Manhattan with the World Trade Center at its center was unveiled at the intersection of 69th Street and Grand Avenue in front of the firehouse of HazMat 1 and Squad 288, which lost more firefighters than any other firehouse in the city.

“The community of Maspeth honors with gratitude, and remembers with affection, all who lived or worked here and who gave their lives, or whose were taken, in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001,” the monument reads.

U.S. Rep Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) recalled visiting Ground Zero with President George Bush days after the terrorist attack.

Crowley said a city firefighter had called out to the president, “I can’t hear you.”

“The president’s response was, ‘But I can hear you,’” Crowley said.

With the hum of the Long Island Expressway in the background, Crowley reminded the audience of the significance of Maspeth.

“Queens County, the United States, the world hears Maspeth, Queens today,” Crowley said. “By the dedication of this monument, you send a large message to the world.”

The memorial itself was financed by the United Veterans and Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth, appropriations from state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) and state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Elmhurst) as well as individual contributions from Maspeth residents.

Firefighter Philip McArdle, formerly of HazMat 1, thanked the gathering of veterans, officials, firefighters, Maspeth residents and victims’ families for their help in what he described as the firehouse’s “most difficult time.”

“We got the support from the community,” McArdle said. “It was absolutely inspiring.”

McArdle spoke of his relationship with the families of the lost firefighters.

“Most of these people are truly remarkable,” he said. “They’ve been an inspiration to all of us in the firehouse.”

Finally, McArdle saluted the members of his former firehouse.

“They’ve done every conceivable thing you can think of to take care of everyone,” McArdle told the audience.

After McArdle’s speech, the names of the 25 people on the monument were read. A bell tolled with the sound of every name as family members watched, sobbing.

Gov, George Pataki said the world learned the strength of New York City on Sept. 11.

“There are no stronger or better people than the people of New York,” he said. “We showed the world that on Sept. 11.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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