By Jack McLoughlin
Hauppauge, New York, has a typical Long Island fire department. We cover 14 square miles of industrial, residential and government facilities, with a daytime population exceeding 65,000. This exposure is covered by 120 volunteers who are well-trained and equipped; they respond to more than 900 alarms per year.
Like all volunteering and career fire departments, we live by the rules of hard work, perseverance and loyalty. On September 11, 2001, we lost two of our volunteers, both of whom were members of FDNY. Both men responded and became part of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives. Peter Brennan and Ray Meisenheimer were dedicated volunteers, family men, and members of New York City’s Bravest.
We talked for years about putting a memorial up in their name, and it just became a lot of talk. Finally, one of our chiefs, Ray Germaine, was able to obtain a piece of steel from the site of the World Trade Center attacks. It arrived in November 2011 and sat in the shed until finally two of our members took the bull by the horns and started a program to build a memorial. Walter Mayer and Bobby Wind, both retired FDNY members, came up with the plan, spending countless hours to raise money and get it designed by Walter’s friend, Joe Graziano. This design was approved by all members of the department. In addition to the piece of steel, through the efforts of an ex-member we were able to obtain a piece of the Pentagon facia and a piece of shale from Shanksville, Pennsylvania, all of which are displayed in prominent locations with appropriate brass plaques denoting their origin. This proves that dedicated personnel can, on their own, envision, raise funds, and build a magnificent project.
The approximate cost was going to be about $100,000, which is hard for any fire department to raise without financial help from the governing body, but they pulled it off and were able to obtain funds from the members themselves, our benevolent group. and some commercial donors. Walter and Bobby also sold bricks for the walkway with the names of the donors on them. Construction was started in early August 2013 by Boulder Way Landscaping (Joe’s company) and it was completed the morning of September 11, 2013. We dedicated the monument that night with a moving ceremony, and believe it is one of the finest 9/11 memorials in the country. Our members proved that with dedication and hard work, you can accomplish just about anything using a grassroots approach.
Photographs by department photographer