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Bayside firefighters unveil memorial mural for 9/11

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At Bayside’s Engine Co. 320, Ladder Co. 167, the sun shone and winds were strong as the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks drew to a close last week, but neighborhood firefighters opened their doors and hearts to the community.

Between 100 and 200 Baysiders visited the firehouse on Francis Lewis Boulevard on the evening of Sept. 10 to pay tribute to their local firefighters and celebrate the unveiling of a mural commemorating the 343 firefighters who died in World Trade Center collapse. The large mural is located high on an exterior wall of the firehouse, at 36-18 Francis Lewis Blvd., facing the street.

The audience, which included families whose loved ones were killed a year ago, cheered and applauded as roughly 25 firefighters in dress uniform from the two companies marched into the parking lot to begin the outdoor ceremony.

“We’ve gone from the Twin Towers to Ground Zero, to the pit, and now I guess it’s hallowed ground,” Capt. Kevin Cassidy of Engine Co. 320 said of the World Trade Center site as he reflected on the somber mood of the first anniversary. “This mural represents ... the loss of our 343 fallen firefighters. It is as indelible and permanent as the brick it is painted on.”

With that, three members of the firehouse withdrew a large American flag from the mural to reveal a large white painting featuring a firefighter kneeling between the Twin Towers against a background of a large American flag. The words “Never Forget, 9-11” highlight the mural, which was sketched and painted by several firefighters from the Francis Lewis Boulevard firehouse.

Lt. Daniel Donoghue of Ladder Co. 167 described how the firehouse took its nickname, the Patriots, from Francis Lewis, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

“Before 9/11 we hung out an American flag on holidays,” Donoghue said. “After 9/11, it was out every day.”

Firefighter John Rodriguez, an Ozone Park resident who works for Engine Co. 320, originally was credited with sketching out the mural but said it was a joint effort by everyone in the firehouse.

“We wanted to do something permanent,” Rodriguez said. “Everybody helped.”

Rodriguez said it took firefighters roughly a week to paint the mural with help from other firefighters who built scaffolding to facilitate the painting and lighting to illuminate it throughout the nighttime hours.

“I’m glad because it’s going to be there a long time,” said Rodriguez, who received accolades from state Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza (D-Bayside) during the unveiling ceremony. “We did it not just for us but for everybody — as you drive by you’ll see it.”

Rookie firefighter Dan McAdams, a Maspeth resident who is with Ladder Co. 167, helped paint the mural.

“It felt like an honor,” McAdams said simply of his involvement. Firefighters John Layton of Ladder Co. 167 and John Sassano of Engine Co. 320 also assisted with the mural while Anthony Delaney, who works with the Fire Department’s Buildings Maintenance Unit, primed the wall before the mural was painted.

Delaney, who recently moved to Bayside from Woodside, said the first anniversary of the World Trade Center attack was difficult to deal with.

Delaney said unveiling the mural was a positive step.

“The flag is still flying and the spirit is still there.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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