After a decade-long journey, the “Kneeling Fireman” has found a home.
The dramatic statue of a firefighter on bended knee was dedicated today at its new home: the 43rd Street headquarters of Emigrant Savings Bank. Bound for Missouri, it had been stuck at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, then was presented as a gift to New York City.
Emigrant Chairman and CEO Howard P. Milstein was joined at the ceremony by local dignitaries that included: FDNY Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano; Former FDNY Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta; Superintendent Michael A. Fedorko of the NY/NJ Port Authority Police; Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Christine A. Ferer, board member of The National September 11 Memorial & Museum; and representatives from the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation. Ms. Ferer was married to Neil Levin, the former Executive Director of the NY/NJ Port Authority, who died during the September 11th attacks.
The Kneeling Fireman’s dramatic history is deeply intertwined with the events of 9/11. Originally commissioned by the Firefighters Association of Missouri and cast in Parma, Italy, the statue landed at JFK on September 9th, 2001, bound for Missouri. Just as it was about to leave New York, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center began, halting all air travel in the United States.
Rather than leave New York after the attacks, the statue was presented to the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation as a gift to all New Yorkers. With funding from the Milstein Family, it was mounted on a granite foundation and temporarily displayed in front of the family’s Milford Plaza Hotel in the months after the attacks. Thousands of New Yorkers and tourists visited the statue, many leaving candles, notes, prayer books, toys, and photos of loved ones lost in the tragedy. In the wake of the attacks, Milford Plaza played an important role in emergency response, donating hundreds of rooms for volunteers from across the nation who came to help with the search and relief efforts. It was also a major gathering point for donated supplies that were delivered to the World Trade Center site. The hotel itself provided more than $50,000 in supplies to relief efforts.
Unfortunately, there was no way to permanently display the statue at the Milford Plaza site, so the Milstein family stored The Kneeling Fireman for nearly decade until a permanent home could be found. Manufactured by Matthews International, The Kneeling Fireman is approximately 12 feet long, five feet wide, and stands more than nine feet tall. The statue’s permanent home is outside the entrance to Emigrant Savings Bank headquarters, at 6 East 43rd Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues. It is the only publicly accessible Midtown Manhattan memorial to all the first responders and victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Emigrant Savings Bank and the Milstein family, which owns the bank, have been strong supporters of 9/11-related charities and causes. Howard Milstein is an active Board member of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, and the Milstein family committed $5 million to support the 9/11 Memorial and its mission.. Howard and Edward Milstein also co-chaired and provided the lead gift for the COPE campaign, which offered post-traumatic stress (PTS) counseling to first responders and their families in the years following 9/11. In addition, the Milstein family provided the funding to ensure that each of the 3,000 victims’ families received a memorial sculpture made from World Trade Center steel by sculptor Bryan Hunt. The artist’s original work is part of the permanent collection of the museum.
From the left: Former DEA agent Rice, Port Authority Police Superintendent Fedorko, FDNY Commissioner Cassano, Howard Milstein, and former FDNY Comissioner Scoppetta.
Most recently, Emigrant Savings Bank and the Milstein family provided $45,000 in funding for “Art For Heart: Remembering 9/11,” a book of art and messages from children who witnessed the attacks on the World Trade Center. The book was published this month in cooperation with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. All proceeds from the book go to support the Memorial. Emigrant and the Milstein Family also donated $50,000 to Prepare New York, a multifaith initiative designed to encourage interreligious understanding in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.