Archives of Rudolph W. Giuliani, 107th Mayor

Remarks at the Fire Department Promotions Ceremony

Sunday, September 16, 2001

As Delivered

We gather on the day after the New York City Fire Department laid to rest three of its legends: Chief Ganci; First Deputy Commissioner Feehan; and our beloved Father Mychal Judge. Some may wonder why we're proceeding with a promotion ceremony during such a devastating time of loss. The answer is very clear: those who were lost and missing would want us to continue. They invested their lives and their love in this department. They gave their life for it. And it's out of sense of profound responsibility to their memory that we must go forward.

I want you to know that the prayers of every single New Yorker, and I believe every single American, are with you. Your willingness to go forward undaunted in the most difficult of circumstances is an inspiration to all of us. It sends a signal that our hearts are broken, no question about that, but our hearts continue to beat, and they beat very, very strongly. Life is going to go on. Both the life of the city and the life of the department. We have very important work to do today, tomorrow, in the months and in the years ahead.

Winston Churchill, the leader of war-torn England who saw his country through the Battle of Britain with bombings every day, once said, "Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it's the quality which guarantees all others."

Without courage, nothing else can really happen. And there is no better example, none —than the courage of the Fire Department of the City of New York. . . .

In the last great attack on America, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the first casualties were the members of our United States Navy. They wore a uniform like you do. In this war, the first large casualties are being experienced by the New York City Fire Department. The Navy regrouped, it fought back, it won the Battle of Midway and it turned the tide of the battle in the Pacific, after it had been devastated. The New York City Fire Department is being re-formed today. It reminds me of battlefield commissions during a time of war.

When I was very young, one of the earliest experiences that I remember is my uncle, my mother's younger brother, who was a firefighter in Brooklyn, being seriously injured when he was thrown from a ladder truck going to a fire, which was a false alarm. He broke both his legs and they thought for a while that he had broken his back and might not be able to walk again.

My mother would take me to visit him almost every day at Kings County Hospital. He was in tremendous pain, but one of my earliest memories was his talking about wanting to go back to work. It was the thing that got him through, the thing that sustained him. He would talk about how he loved his job. And even as a 5- and 6-year-old, I could figure it out. Here was a man who had broken both of his legs an maybe his back, and he wanted to go back to the work he loved. And he did. He had a long career in the Fire Department, got injured twice more and then retired as a Captain. And he was one of my early heroes.

So you're all my heroes. You have been from the time I was a little boy, and from the day that I became the mayor of New York City. And I'm heartbroken that we have to add so many, I don't know how many, to that memorial wall back there. I had hoped that there would be no more.

But we're going to take out of our hearts' being broken the determination to make this city even more secure, to show to the cowards that wanted to destroy our spirit that, yes, they've taken some of our most precious lives, but they have not taken our spirit.

The spirit of democracy is stronger than these cowardly terrorists. Countries that live under a rule of law agree on being a democracy and respect and care about human life the way the firefighters of New York City care about human life. That's what we want. That's the future we want for our children, that's the future we want for the rest of the world. It's what America has always wanted. And it's something that you embody in a way that can be an example to America.

So I would please ask you to stand and join me in a round of applause to honor the men we've lost and the men that we're still searching for.


Thank you very much and God bless you all.

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