Reporting Steve Sandberg
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Every time the firefighters of Engine 54 enter their firehouse, they’re reminded of the horrors of 9/11. The faces of their 15 colleagues who died that day hang on the wall, one of the many things that grabbed President Barack Obama‘s attention as he visited Engine 54 on Thursday.
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Obama arrived under very tight security at the firehouse, which is known as “the Pride of Midtown,” for a 45-minute visit.
The lost firefighters had 28 children among them. Their pictures, along with messages from their families, line a wall at the firehouse.
“This is a symbolic site of the extraordinary sacrifice that was made on that terrible day almost 10 years ago,” Obama said at the firehouse. “When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say.”
The President said the Navy SEALs who took Osama bin Laden out did so, in part, in the name of their brothers who perished in 9/11.
“You’re always going to have a president and an administration whose got your back,” Obama declared.
“To see him take off his coat, sit down in the kitchen, sit back in the chair and relax and just have a nice conversation was wonderful,” FDNY Chief Edward Kilduff said.
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Obama also broke bread with the men of Engine 54 enjoying a meal of eggplant parmesan, a shrimp and scallop pasta with cream sauce and a salad.
“He was a really down to earth guy, you know, just like hanging out with the rest of the guys at the firehouse,” Firefighter Joe Ceravolo, who prepared the meal, said.
“He’s very personable. I can’t get over what a nice man he is and down-to-earth. You know, he was trying to be like one of us and he was — he fit right in the firehouse. He could’ve been a fireman today,” firefighter Leonard Siele said.
The news of bin Laden’s death brought a somber reaction to many of the firefighters of Engine 54.
Captain Tom Venditto was working when word came down that the leader of al-Qaeda had been killed by Navy SEALs. His fire truck was greeted by a cheering crowd in Times Square and people wanting to take pictures.
“[It's] wonderful for the families to see that the public still thinks about them and remembers their loss and their sorrow,” Venditto told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg.
The firefighters also said they wanted to convey their appreciation for the President giving the orders to bring bin Laden to justice.
“We wanted to tell him, we thank him for what he did on Sunday and all the troops and all. We want them to know we’re with them every step of the way,” firefighter Joe Ceravalo said.
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On a wall at the firehouse, located at 8th Avenue and 48th Street, are the 15 photos and a bronze memorial plaque that commemorates the brave men who gave their lives to save others on 9/11.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who led the city in dark days after the attacks, joined Obama in the visit to the station.
Obama went to the firehouse before visiting with families of 9/11 victims at Ground Zero.
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