Their supreme sacrifices are immortalized in our hearts, and now also on a street sign in Red Hook. Engine 202 and Ladder 101 Firefighters Joseph Gullickson, Brian Cannizzaro, Salvatore Calabro, Thomas Kennedy, Patrick Byrne, Joseph Maffeo and Terence McShane rushed to answer the call on 9-11 with an obligation to duty that only super-humans who storm burning buildings without a thought to their own safety can fully understand.
The brave seven saved countless lives that sunny, terrible morning, arriving at the World Trade Center before terrorists rammed their second hijacked airplane into the towers. They paid for their heroism by not returning home that night — or any night.
Their final moments in a Dante’s Inferno of melting iron and crumbling concrete — amplified by the roar of agonizing screams and another demon jet overhead — is the stuff of complete heartbreak, and we cannot hope to repay the debt of their selfless actions in this lifetime.
We can, however, take a walk along Richards Street, stop at the corner of Sebring Avenue, and reflect upon their courage below a street sign erected last week named “Seven in Heaven Way” to honor the remarkable men who came to be posthumously and aptly known in their community as the “seven in heaven.”
Now, thanks to the humble green sign, even strangers can keep their memory alive — a prospect which has some atheists up in arms and spiritually bereft over one of the words: heaven.
Here are three words for them: get a life.
The devout attachment to the phrase “separation between church and state” would mean so much more if it actually appeared somewhere in the Constitution, which it does not.
The provocative parlance has been hijacked and sullied from Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, where the founding father writes that the First Amendment erected a “wall of separation” between church and state.
No hoo-ha accompanies the issue of religion at all in the supreme law of the land. There is only one pointed reference to it in the entire original constitution, capped by the third clause in Article 6 which states, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
In fact, there are more citations to the holy order than not in the greatest document on earth, which refers to the year that the convention created the constitution as “the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven.”
“Separation of church and state” is a phrase more bandied about than “Viva La Evolución!” at an atheist convention, but that doesn’t make it correct.
America’s founders could not have desired a disconnect between God and state, else why would each of the 50 states acknowledge God in their state constitutions, even today? New York’s own preamble proudly declares, “We The People of the State of New York, grateful to Almighty God for our Freedom, in order to secure its blessings.”
The “seven in heaven” surrendered their lives in a catastrophe that was needless and heartbreaking, and no amount of city funds should be spared to hail their memories.
Fortunately, the masses agree that high honors — not hot air — is what each of them deserves.