In Memory of Gerard Duffy
"Greater love has no man than this- that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13
How much greater a love to lay down one’s life for strangers?
When I signed up to participate in this project I looked forward to doing the research, to finding out all there was to know about Firefighter Gerard Duffy, Ladder 21. I wanted to know how long he had been a firefighter. Did being “on the job” run in his family? Did he like fishing? Nascar racing? Football? Fried chicken? How had his day begun on 9/11/01?
I didn’t find out any of these things.
I tried to talk to his brothers at Ladder 21; I wanted to hear their memories of him, I wanted to ask them how they thought he would want to be remembered, and I wanted to make sure that he was remembered just that way. I took the bus up to the firehouse at 38th and 10th, just 14 blocks from my home. The doors were all closed up tight, the whole house silent and dignified, the empty jackets with their reflective stripes hanging in loose rows near the wall, the truck sitting with one door open, ready. There was a plaque outside with his name on it and a small memorial, a cross made with a piece of the steel removed from the WTC site. I didn’t see anyone at all inside, so, disappointed, I started to slowly make my way back up to the bus stop at 9th Avenue. Halfway there, I heard the alarm sound, and a few seconds later, the truck came barreling out, there was a fire to go to. I wondered if that was the way the alarm had come, if that was the way the truck had left the house five years ago with Gerard Duffy in it, for the last time. I wondered as I saw the faces of the men in the truck, serious and brave, as it swung down 38th Street away from me, if that was how Gerard Duffy had looked five years ago on that truck on the way to hell, and then, heaven.
I tried other ways to connect with someone who may have known Gerard Duffy, because I needed to know all about him, but had no luck.
Friday night, I’m in bed crying because I want to start writing my tribute soon and I have no information, I don’t know enough about Gerard Duffy to write the kind of tribute I want to write, the kind that he surely deserves.
When I stopped crying, I realized I knew all I need to know about him.
We all know Gerard Duffy.
We know him by his actions that day and every other day that he spent as a firefighter. We know that he was doing his job that day, that day five years ago that started off like just another day for all of us, but would soon become a day like no other. We know that the alarm came, and he was called, and he, with his brothers, his friends, went down to hell. He went willingly, indeed, it was his honor to do so, to lay down his life for his brothers, for his friends, and for strangers.
Read other tributes here