For Tommy, Ronnie and Bobby Gies, their father's heroic death on Sept. 11, 2001 evoked a sense of pride in all three of them to follow in his firefighting footsteps.
Ronnie Gies, a member of Squad 288 out of Maspeth, Queens, was also a 25-year veteran of the Merrick Fire Department. He was among the 343 firefighters and paramedics who made the supreme sacrifice Sept. 11, 2001. Eighteen of them were active firefighters right here in Nassau County.
Lives of Service: Celebrating the Heroes of 9/11, a 5,000-square foot exhibit and memorial commemorating the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the heroes of that day, officially opens to the public Sept. 9 at the Nassau County Firefighters Museum and Education Center in E. Garden City.
"They weren't just names, they were people," said Alana Petrocelli, executive director of the museum. "That's what this exhibit is about - the people."
The exhibit takes you back to that cloudless morning with a timeline of the day's events from the New York State Museum while news coverage from Ground Zero plays on several TV screens throughout.
The exhibit’s centerpiece is a series of memorial panels, with a photo and brief biography, which family members helped write, of each of the 18 active firefighters lost, surrounding a replication of the Twin Towers in hanging strands of metal beads.
Family members also loaned out personal effects of their loved ones for the exhibit, including a South Side Cyclones football jacket worn by firefighter Joe Hunter of South Hempstead, scuba gear worn by Bellmore firefighter Kevin Prior and bagpipes often played by Wantagh firefighter Lee Fehling during firefighter parades.
Artifacts from Ground Zero are also included, including a firetruck door that somehow weathered the attack and a piece of steel construction worker Pete Messana took from the wreckage and made into a piece of art to honor all those who died.
The exhibit runs through the end of the year. A formal opening ceremony will take place Friday at 6 p.m. with a special Badge of Courage Gala following at 7 p.m. Museum admission will be waived during the weekend of Sept. 11.
David Lerner of in Syosset presented the museum with a $5,000 check to help support its exhibit.
"I strongly believe we can never forget those that were lost on that fateful day and this exhibit will help keep their memories alive by celebrating their heroic acts," said Lerner.
The 18 men who are being featured in the exhibit include:
- Adam Rand, Bellmore
- Brian Hickey, Bethpage
- Durrell Pearsall, Hempstead
- George Howard, Hicksville
- Jonathan Ielpi, Great Neck
- Joseph Hunter, So. Hempstead
- Keith Fairben, Floral Park
- Kevin Prior, Bellmore
- Lee Fehling, Wantagh
- Michael Kiefer, Franklin Square
- Peter Langone, Roslyn Heights
- Thomas Langone, Roslyn Heights
- Richard Muldowney, Freeport
- Robert Deangelis, West Hempstead
- Ronald Kerwin, Levittown
- Ronnie Gies, Merrick
- Thomas Hetzel, Elmont
- Thomas Jurgens, Lawrence