NEW YORK (AP) — Small plaques inscribed with the names of 13 New York Fire Department employees who died of illnesses directly related to the search for survivors in the rubble at the World Trade Center after Sept. 11 were added Thursday to a memorial wall at the department's headquarters.
During a somber ceremony a week ahead of the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, family members placed white roses beneath the wall, which already bears the names of 89 FDNY members who have died in the years since 9/11, as a fire bell rang once after each name was called.
The ceremony honored four firefighters, two battalion chiefs, three officers, two paramedics, a fire marshal and an emergency medical technician.
"This department never forgets," Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
Nigro, holding back tears, noted that he responded to ground zero nearly 13 years ago with two others from the department whose names today are on the memorial wall.
"I'm fortunate just to be here," he said.
In all, 343 firefighters were killed in the attacks, and many more are battling illnesses believed to stem from the contaminated air at the site in the days and weeks after the collapse of the towers.
Willie T. Franklin III and his sister Tonya Franklin-Woods attended the ceremony in honor of their father, Willie T. Franklin Jr., a firefighter who died in 2011 after a yearslong battle with lung cancer that spread to other parts of his body.
"It is an honor to be here today," Franklin-Woods said. "My dad loved the department. It was a second family to him."