Never Forgetting at the FDNY Fire Academy: 9/11 Memorials

By Frank Leeb

Photos by author

Dedicated in 1975 and opened the following year, the New York City Fire Academy is a world-class training facility.  Also known as “The Rock,” the fire academy is the hub of training for the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). Indeed, every FDNY firefighter begins their career here in our probationary firefighter school. However, probationary firefighter school is only the beginning of a career-long learning experience. Most members typically attend one or more of our various classroom training programs at the fire academy each year. This is in addition to the daily training in our subway simulator, tactical live fire training, chauffeur training school, and a host of other hands-on scenarios that take place daily on our 27-acre campus.

The FDNY’s long-standing commitment and dedication to develop and mentor our next generation of firefighters and leaders can largely be attributed to the fire academy’s world-class instructors, who possess unsurpassed cumulative experience both in the classroom and on the fireground. Our dedicated staff of instructors understand that training at the fire academy lays the foundational cornerstone to success on the fireground.

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Many are aware of the quality of training that occurs here, but fewer realize that the fire academy is also home to an astonishing number of historic and museum-like artifacts and memorials. From historic fire engines to paintings and memorials to FDNY members killed in the line of duty, nearly everything at the fire academy has a significant meaning.

Indeed, the term “Never Forget” is evident in every area and aspect of the FDNY and the fire academy. Remembering and teaching our history is an important component of the fire academy. This is especially true when it comes to remembering our fallen members.

No single incident has more memorials or has had as large an impact on the FDNY than September 11, 2001. With more than 50 memorials, paintings, plaques, drawings, monuments, and dedications at the fire academy alone, we offer here some photos and a brief description of just a few.

The Pull-Up Bars

Made of 9/11 steel, these pull-up bars are a reminder of the strength and sacrifice required of the job of a firefighter. These bars are used frequently during probationary firefighter school and serve as additional motivation to all that train on them. At the base of the pull up bars is a plaque with the inscription that reads: “Be proud, be brave, be strong, but most of all be prepared.”

Katrina tribute from New Orleans in FDNY The Rock

New York to New Orleans:

Members of the FDNY Incident Management team (IMT) and a 300-hundred member team of FDNY firefighters and fire officers were deployed to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. This was early September of 2005 and was the first deployment of the FDNY IMT, which was formed following September 11, 2001. Talented members of the FDNY built a memorial that would be part of the 9/11 service that was held in New Orleans on September 11, 2005. The memorial was held at their “base camp” and was attended by firefighters from New Orleans and Chicago, who were also working. The memorial remained on display for the duration of the FDNY deployment. It now resides at the fire academy in the cafeteria of building 11.

Company patches line the hallways at the Rock

Company Patches

Worn on the shoulder of the dress uniform, the company patch is an enormous source of pride and identity for all who wear the uniform. In the hallways and cafeteria of one of the newer structures at the fire academy, the walls are lined with the company patch of each of the companies of the members lost on 9/11. This display honors the companies that lost so much.

Wall of 343 Fallen FDNY Firefighters of 9-11 inside The Rock

The 343

On September 11, 2001, the FDNY lost 343 members. This memorial is a photograph of each of our members who were lost and puts a face to each name. It is a constant reminder and memorial of the enormous loss of life to all who pass by this busy corridor.

FDNY military members memorial

FDNY Members of the Military Memorial

The FDNY has a long and storied history of service to our country. Part of our history is the 47 members of the FDNY who have paid the supreme sacrifice for our freedom.  Some of our members were killed serving in World Wars I and II. We have also lost members serving since 9/11 serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Proby Pavilion:

The newest structure at the fire academy is the “Proby Pavilion.” This functional teaching space was built and dedicated to the memory of FDNY probationary firefighters who were killed in the line of duty while assigned to the fire academy. This is a memorial to seven firefighters, six of whom were killed on 9/11. Within the Proby Pavilion are many symbolic references, adding to this beautiful and functional memorial. The steel teaching table, which sits at the front of the pavilion, is hand crafted with the New York City skyline welded into the front. The 10 tables—five red and five black—signify an engine and ladder for each borough of New York City. The seven plaques on the front wall each contain the name of one of the probationary firefighters. A plaque on the side, dedicates the pavilion to all who pass here. The lights that illuminates the pavilion after dark are made from fire helmets and each has a probie frontispiece attached.

Pentagon memorial at The Rock, FDNY, NYC

Washington to New York

A stone from the impact area of the Pentagon on 9/11, draped with an American flag, pays tribute to those lost in Washington, D.C., the resiliency and bond of America, and the American flag.

FDNY Firefighter Steven Siller

Outside of building 12 at the FDNY fire academy you will find a larger-than-life bronze monument honoring Firefighter Steven Siller. Although off duty on September 11, 2001, Steven, like so many other firefighters, gathered his gear and headed toward lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center. With traffic blocking the way, Steven decided to run through the tunnel from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Steven would be killed when the towers collapsed. This monument of Steven is one person who represents 343. Each of the 343 firefighter names are engraved into the sides of the monument. Steven represents what it is to be an FDNY firefighter, both in life and in death through his heroic actions.

FRANK LEEB is a deputy assistant chief in the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). He currently serves as the chief of the fire academy. Frank also is the current chair of the FDNY’s Contamination Reduction Workgroup and has been a member of the FDNY since 1992. Frank has also been a member of the East Farmingdale (NY) Fire Department on Long Island since 1983. He holds a bachelor’s degree in fire service administration from SUNY and a master’s degree in security studies from the Naval Postgraduate School, Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS). He is a principal on the NFPA Technical Committee Fire and Emergency Service Organization and Deployment-Career (NFPA 1710) and NFPA 1585 the Standard on Contamination and Control.

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