New York Firefighters Set up 3,000-Flag Twin Tower Tribute to Honor Lives Lost in 9/11

September 10, 2020 Updated: September 10, 2020

New York’s Stanford Fire Department has arranged a patriotic tribute of nearly 3,000 small flags in honor of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Rows of red, white, and blue in conjunction with red fire fighter flags adorn the grounds outside Stanford Town Hall, and together they form the Twin Towers, which run up and down across the lawn.

“I said this is going to be a lot of work but I think it would be really neat if we did this at Town Hall,” Stanford Fire Company vice president Edward Zick told the Poughkeepsie Journal. By the end of the meeting when he first floated the idea, the department unanimously agreed to go ahead.

Photos of the memorial can be viewed here.

The 2,978 flags were set up on Sept. 3, using 343 red flags to create the shape of the Twin Towers, each representing one of the firefighters who died in the attack. Seventy-one American flags were adorned with a blue ribbon to represent the 70 police officers and one Port Authority police dog who were killed. The remaining 2,564 American flags marked all of the civilians who died.

“Part of it was we wanted to make a history lesson for the kids,” Zick reflected; “it’s easy to say we’re never going to forget, but kids nowadays don’t fully understand.”

Stanford firefighters planted each flag with their own hands, with help from local community members, some of whom provided a meal at the firehouse to mark the display’s completion. A march took place the following evening led by a ceremonial bagpipe player.

The tribute will remain on display until Sept. 19.

For the Stanford Fire Department, the tribute has special significance, as the department lost one of their own, Lieutenant Dennis Gilhooly, in December 2019 due to injuries sustained in the 9/11 relief effort.

Gilhooley served 20 years with the New York Police Department before retiring and joining the fire service, reports Hudson Valley Magazine. He was the 199th New York firefighter to die from injuries related to 9/11.

His wife, Laura Gilhooley, raised the town hall display’s large central flag during the Sept. 4 ceremony in honor of her late husband. And his comrades contributed a gesture of their own.

“[W]e felt like we should have something special, even though he wasn’t part of the 2,978,” Zick told the news outlet. The team settled on laying their fallen lieutenant’s helmet and jacket, emblazoned with the number 39, in between the rendering of the twin towers.

“I can truthfully say that there wasn’t a dry eye when it was done,” said Zick.

The fire company vice president explained that his inspiration for the flag display came from driving past similar tributes to firefighters in neighboring Massachusetts. The collective tribute, he said, is a pledge to remember.

“It changed our history, it changed how we function in the world because of that day,” he said of 9/11. “A lot of these people happened to be in the wrong place at the time, a lot of these firefighters didn’t know when they ran into that building that it was going to collapse, and we can’t let that escape.”

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