Nov 072011

Sign-in table at the Gallery. Lt. Kreuscher took down and folded our flag, which was damaged in the wind. We will always treasure this flag and keep it folded as a symbol of the respect that this former military man and fire commander holds for his country.


Our little Loading Dock Gallery at 2012-24 East Arizona Street in Philadelphia was the  venue for an exciting book signing event  for retired FDNY Lt. George R. Kreuscher on October 15th. It was a memorable afternoon, with the guests of honor the firefighters of Rescue 1 Philadelphia, who arrived in their specialized Rescue Apparatus.

Rescue 1 Apparatus parked across from the Gallery

Lt. Kreuscher with (l-r) Rescue 1 firefighter David Herron and Lt. Shawn Glynn Sr.

Some of these firefighters know Kresucher, having had him as an instructor at “The Rock,” the FDNY training facility on Randall’s Island.

My daughter Alana listens to the reading. Portrait of Kreuscher's firefighter son George in the background.

Lt. Kreuscher read the opening chapter from his memoir “Fireman,” which relives the events of 9/11 from the perspective of someone who has responded to thousands of alarms in his 31 year career and knows the routine of the doomed firefighters making their way up the smoky stairwells of the Twin Towers while civilians pass them on the way down. Hearing his routine listing of every minute detail of command structure, readiness, and gear, was profoundly moving. Firefighters are people who notice things, whose job it is  to be vigilant and watchful, who have real skills. There were tears shed among the assembled gallery-goers as he read through the passage describing the firefighter’s ascent through the stairwells, and George choked up at several points.

Neighbors, friends and family listen to the reading. George's son, former FDNY firefighter George Kreuscher is second from left. Kreusher family members, including Lt. Kreuscher's wife Mary stand at far right.Kreuscher's son, a retired FDNY firefighter also named George Kreuscher, sang "Danny Boy" in a beautiful tenor, a first for these events. This is a song often performed at firefighter funerals. When I finally figure out how to compress the file, I'll upload the video.The author reading, with portraits of three Rescue 1 firefighters in background.

It was fitting to hear this song performed on a day when the visiting Rescue 1 firefighters laid to rest one of their own, Lt. Richard M. Benditt. He was one of 18 Philadelphia FEMA firefighters who worked at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the attacks. The obituary linked below discusses how prevalent cancer is among this group who worked long hours with minimal protective gear in the toxic stew at the World Trade Center site, and slept in their gear on cots at the Convention Center. This is the untold story of 9/11 and not enough is being done to help those who are ill and who have already died before their time. I hope you will take time to read about his life and write some words of condolence for his family.

Kreuscher signs book for school teacher Amy Nicole Heintz (from a New York firefighter family), Kreuscher's 1993 portrait in the background.

Author Kreuscher sold 10 books, which is quite successful considering our tiny venue and zero coverage in the media (yes, we sent out press releases to all media outlets). After 20 years of organizing these events, I have come to realize that stories of the stoic men and women who protect our communities  will never be as newsworthy as Kim Kardashian’s derriere or Justin Bieber’s haircut. One reception and book signing at a time, my goal has been and will continue to be, to illuminate this  unique  narrative of true American selflessness and personal sacrifice. Thanks to all who attended, and I look forward to seeing you at our next event.

Firefighter Edward Brown of Rescue and I discuss the portrait of Firefighter Sheldon Wright. Just like Firefighter Wright, firefighter Brown seems larger than life in person, and projects an alertness and decency that is the hallmark of a good firefighter and civic role model.