The Viewing of Midtown’s first 9/11 Memorial


Kneeling Fireman Statue

Kneeling Fireman Statue at Emigrant Savings Bank in midtown Manhattan: Photo: Nell Smith

On September 11, 2001 Michalle Heredia hurried out of her midtown Manhattan office at Rockefeller Center, after watching the second hijacked plane crash into the South Tower. “When I heard the first plane hit I thought it was an accident,” said Heredia, “but then I saw the second plane and I knew it wasn’t.”

Ten years and two weeks later, Heredia, who now works at Special Counsel, a legal search agency, stepped out of her midtown office once again, but this time to commemorate the “Kneeling Fireman” statue.

About 100 people gathered in front of the Emigrant Savings Bank at the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue for the unveiling of the “Kneeling Fireman” a 2,700 pound, 6-foot 6-inch bronze statue of a firemen kneeling on one knee to pray.  Members of the NYPD and FDNY, dressed in plaid kilts, playing bagpipes and drums, assembled in front of the statue to pay homage to their fallen colleagues.

Howard Millstein, the current CEO, President and Chairman of New York Private Bank and Trust and its affiliate Emigrant Savings Bank, shared vivid memories of that Tuesday morning in 2001. “As I and many others watched thousands of our fellow New Yorkers dying,” he said, “among the bravest that day, were the firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice.”  Milstein reminded the crowd that 343 firefighters died in rescue attempts.

Milstein, a member of the largest philanthropic family in the state of New York, funded the permanent placement of the statue outside Emigrant Savings Bank.

Originally commissioned by the Firefighters Association of Missouri, the Kneeling Fireman was in transit to Missouri when it landed at the JFK Airport in New York City on September 9, 2001.  Shortly after the terrorist attacks, the Pittsburgh-based manufacturers of the Kneeling Fireman, the Matthews International Corporation, donated the statue to New York City.

Christy Ferer, widow of Neil Ferer, the former Executive Director of the Port Authority who died on 9/11, also spoke at the event.  As a member of the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority, Christy has worked diligently to raise money for families who lost loved ones on September 11.  As a victim herself, she is proud of the statue: “The arts are sacred because they help families remember.”

As the dedication service came to a close, state officials, businessmen and women, local workers, mothers with strollers, and a number of passersby stopped to take pictures of the memorial site.  Tamara Russell, who works on 43rd Street, said, “I think it was very nice and unexpected.  Nothing like this happens on 43th Street.”  The Kneeling Fireman is the first memorial in midtown Manhattan to commemorate the lives of fallen firemen.

The bagpipers and drummers played “Amazing Grace,” and the crowd dispersed.

“I think after 10 years I’m still in shock,” said Heredia, “They should always have memorials to remember what happened.”