343 members of the FDNY from 75 separate fire companies made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11. More than 100 have died since then from illnesses directly related to their work at Ground Zero. The number grows every year.
It’s hard to know how best to speak about 9/11 as the years go by. It’s a memory that is imprinted on all of us, no matter how far removed we were. To be in New York City, even now, is to be surrounded by those who lived it and lost so much. Everybody has a story of somebody they knew or chance events that kept them from being another name on the memorial wall. Not just firefighters. Everybody. In the days leading up to the 14th anniversary of 9/11, we took BIGLOVEBALL to New York City to honour those who gave their lives that day. Our intention was to capture portraits of New York Firefighters by award winning photographer, Bob Garlick, and speak to those that carry on despite the tragedy they endured. Fully prepared for rejection, we set out on foot in Lower Manhattan with nothing but a BIGLOVEBALL and our cameras. We shyly knocked on the front door of the Little Italy fire house of Engine 55 not knowing what to expect.
Waiting patiently outside as the junior firefighter asked the crew if they would participate, we wondered if we might need to find Yankees tickets that afternoon instead. The sight of the giant red door raising up as three enthusiastic firefighters and their dog came out to meet us was a magic moment that would set the tone for our entire trip. Over the next 2 days, we were warmly welcomed by 10 separate FDNY fire crews who allowed us to capture their spirit on film with BIGLOVEBALL. These images and stories of the roles those fire companies played on 9/11 were shared on our Instagram as a tribute. We experienced a wide range of emotions as we saw firsthand the lasting effects on these firefighters and on the city. Though we heard countless tales of tragedy and loss, the message that will endure in our hearts forever is one of perseverance and selflessness. Once again, BIGLOVEBALL had given us the platform to share what matters.
One particularly touching story is the miracle of Ladder 6. Tasked with searching the North Tower, they were actually in the building when it collapsed. Yes, IN the building. After the South Tower had fallen, evacuation orders were given for all those still in the North Tower. In the stairwell on their way down, they encountered 59 year old grandmother, Josephine Harris, exhausted and injured from her descent from the 73rd floor. While other firefighters and civilians passed them, Ladder 6 refused to split their crew and made it their mission to bring Josephine down in the dust and dark. Her inability to continue past the 4th floor meant they were forced to stop at the exact level that would grant them a tiny space in the rubble. To this day, the members of Ladder 6 credit Josephine with the survival of their entire crew. Josephine passed away in 2011.
In memory of the thousands of people who died on 9/11 and the 343 FDNY Firefighters who gave their lives trying to save them. We will never forget.