LI Firefighter Museum exhibit honors 9/11 victims

September 9, 2011 9:24:32 AM PDT
As the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaches, residents and organizations across the Tri-State area are planning remembrances to honor the victims. On Long Island, a special exhibit pays tribute to several first responders who did not return to their Nassau County homes that fateful day.

Moved nearly beyond words, Carol Gies gazed at her husband Ronnie. And he smiled right back.

"I really can't believe it's 10 years," she said. "I lost half my heart when I lost him. I did. And it hasn't gotten any better since."

A decade ago, firefighter Ronnie Gies was working overtime with Squad 288 in Queens and was among the first wave to arrive before the towers fell.

"I still miss them, still miss them," said John Murray, chief instructor at Nassau County's Firefighters Museum.

This week, the museum has put together an elaborate exhibit. It is part memorial, part teaching tool, to remind people about 18 first responders who worked as cops, firefighters or medics in the city. And all of them volunteered in their home communities on Long Island.

"I just don't want people to forget about what happened that day, and make sure that we're diligent to make sure it doesn't happen again if we can prevent that," Murray said. "And to never forget these families, and treat them with respect."

Carol Gies took a sneak peek of the exhibit, a ring of faces she knows well by now.

"He worked with Ronnie," she said, pointing at one picture.

"He's right next to my husband in the cemetery," she said of another.

And alongside the bios, there is a treasure trove of artifacts from that day - the door of a crushed fire truck, the hospital ID card carried by EMT Keith Fairben, and the battered helmet Ronnie Gies was wearing when the south tower crashed down on top of him.

Ronnie left Carol and three sons, two of whom have already joined the fire department. The third plans to do the same.

It is a legacy of bravery Carol says is represented in every face at the exhibit.

"I think it's great that people have a place to come and see these heroes," she said.

The Firefighter Museum is part of the Cradle of Aviation inUniondale, which is offering free admission through the weekend. The exhibit will be on display for at least six months after that.

Visit for more on the museum and admission information.