By SHELLEY GRIESHOP
MINSTER — The faces of five Manhattan firefighters who
perished in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will forever be etched
in the minds of workers at a small business in this Auglaize
A memorial plaque honoring the brave firefighters from Fire
Engine Company 55 was manufactured at TradeMark Designs Inc.
in Minster and shipped Friday to the New York fire house in
time for a special dedication ceremony next week.
“We kind of babysat this piece, all of us,” said
Linda Erb, sales/service representative for the company, which
specializes in chemical etching. “This has touched everyone
here. It’s heart wrenching. It brings it all back.”
Head shots of the five smiling men, ranging in age from 27 to
55, are arranged in a half-circle on the plaque in front of
the New York City skyline as it looked before the horrific events
two years ago.
With gentle but steady hands, production manager Trey McKinney
tightened the bolts that attached a rustic axe head onto the
bottom of the plaque Friday morning.
“I just wish this (9/11) had never happened,” said
McKinney, as he stepped back to take one final look at the golden,
20-by-24-inch work of art.
The axe head is not only a sad reminder of the 343 New York
City firefighters who died, but one of the few pieces retrieved
from the demolished fire truck that brought the ill-fated crew
to Ground Zero that day.
Eight of the two dozen firefighters assigned to Engine 55 were
out on a reported gas leak when the first plane struck the north
tower of the World Trade Center. They immediately headed to
the scene 20 miles away.
Twelve-year veteran of the department, firefighter Paul Acciarico,
recalled the sequence of events that day.
“They entered the lobby, we know they entered the lobby.
They probably had orders to. Later we talked with people who
saw them going up the stairs,” Acciarico, 37, said.
Then, as the men in full firefighting gear climbed the steps
to help lead others away from danger, the unthinkable happened.
The building began to collapse.
“They never had a chance,” Acciarico added.
Debris came tumbling down and people jumped in desperation from
hundreds of floors above, as millions of Americans watched their
television sets in horror. It wasn’t long before the men
and their fire truck were buried in the rubble.
Vincent “Buddy” Zeccardi grew up just a block away
from the 105-year-old fire house and now operates “Caffe
Roma,” a small cafe just across the street. The 67-year-old
knew all the firefighters well. He routinely waved good morning
to them as he arrived for work each day and used to bring them
homemade desserts prepared at his pastry business, he said.
It was Zeccardi who brought the idea for the plaque to Arista
Trophies in New York, a client of manufacturer TradeMark.
“It was just something I wanted to do. I come from this
neighborhood,” Zeccardi said in a phone interview Friday.
“I got to know all these guys pretty well over the years.”
Zeccardi said he is close to the firefighters and worries about
them like family. The feeling is apparently mutual. Zeccardi
was invited to the fire station two weeks after the terrorist
attack when President George W. Bush met the families of the
“It’s still hard to talk to them (the firefighters)
about the ordeal,” said Zeccardi. “They still get
choked up at times.”
The firefighters, Faustino Apostol, Robert Lane, Chris Mozzillo,
Stephen Russell and Lt. Peter Freund, were all laid to rest
between Oct. 6, 2001, and Jan. 12, 2002. Two of the men, Freund
and Apostol, left behind wives and children.
As workers at TradeMark found out bits and pieces about the
courageous victims and the families they left behind, they began
to feel a connection to the pain and suffering that took its
toll on our country without warning on Sept. 11, 2001. The tragedy
took more than 2,800 lives that day.
“We’ve looked long and hard at the faces on this
plaque, and we’ve wondered how the lives of so many families
has changed the last two years,” Erb said. “We know
they were good men, proud men, and they never batted an eye
about going into that building. They just did their job.”