The day began with a special ceremony at their Red Hook location. Many were honored. Stories of bravery and courage were recounted.
The Red Hook Raiders, as they are familiarly called, are located just beyond the Brooklyn side of the Battery Tunnel. They were the first to respond on 9/11 after the attack on the Twin Towers. All seven members of Ladder 101 were killed in rescue efforts. They are still celebrated among their fellow firefighters as the “Seven in Heaven.”
They were played vital roles during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, lending helping hands whenever and wherever possible with recovery efforts.
Following the ceremony, Rocky Sullivan’s hosted the Raiders to an afternoon of music, hot food donated by Fairway, and plenty of sunshine. The entire block was blocked off for the occasion. Ice chests full of cold beverages lined the sidewalks. And uniformed firefighters enjoyed a day of celebration with their families, friends and colleagues.
The Star Revue had the opportunity to speak with a few of the firefighters.
Bob Thompson, a retired fireman told us, “So this here is the whole neighborhood. The whole neighborhood appreciates the fire department so they threw a party for them.”
Bill Kahaly said, “Today is the 100th anniversary of Ladder 131 and Engine 279, and I worked there for 10 years. Started there as a probationary firefighter and got to experience some really exciting times working in Red Hook.”
He spoke a little about the role firemen play. “Well, we are all here to help the community in many, many ways besides firefighting. We help them in ways with like many other emergencies. We hope they are proud of us and see us as friends.”
Harry has been working at the fire department since he was 24 in 1957 – 56 years. He said that a lot has changed since he started working there. “The trucks, the clothes they wear when they go out on a run. We never had a mask; they carry a mask on every run. The gear that they have is very protective. Ours was not so protective.”
When we asked if he was planning on retiring soon, he replied, “Not me. When I retire, it’ll be into the ground.”
Lieutenant Gerber chose Rocky Sullivan’s as the location. “It’s important to do stuff in the Red Hook community, especially after Sandy. You become a part of the neighborhood.
You know, it’s a rough neighborhood; there’s not too many places they can go if they have a problem. But people know they can come to the firehouse, whatever their problem is.
Debbie Halper walked over and said, “He’s our youngest lieutenant!”
Gerber responded with a bemused smile, “I’m not the youngest lieutenant.”
Debbie quickly jumped in and said, “Then he’s the best looking lieutenant.”