Well-known member
Apr 23, 2018
If you see any New York City firefighters wearing their navy blue dress uniforms, you may be able to tell where they were on September 11th, 2001. In 2003 Chief Peter Hayden and Chief Joe Pfeifer collaborated on designing a campaign commemorative decoration which was awarded to FDNY firefighters at the WTC site during 9/11 and the nine months that followed during recovery. They then created a corresponding ribbon. But they wanted the ribbon to tell the story.

The medal is attached to a purple and black ribbon and bar pin, and has the FDNY logo on the front with “September 11, 2001” printed across the logo. The back of the medal features the Thomas Franklin image of firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero with “Survivor / September 11, 2001” below the image and “Fire Department / City of New York / World Trade Center” around the border.

The corresponding rectangular ribbon is black and purple. The purple and black are typical traditional mourning drapes that we either wear, or adorn the firehouse. The 343 in the purple field symbolizes the 343 members that were murdered. In the black field there are three distinctions.

A black field with no stars indicates a firefighter that took part of the overall search and rescue campaign.

One gold star in the black field indicates the firefighter arrived within 24 hours on scene after the towers collapsed and performed as a rescuer.

Members with two gold stars are survivors, on scene when the buildings came down and now recognized as the highest award in the FDNY.
Chief Pfeifer said, “The two stars basically meant that you should not have survived, and you were there before the collapse and somehow you made it out.”

Chief Hayden said; “We certainly feel that there were members there, survivors in particular, that were placed at a greater degree of risk than campaign workers. But we felt that everybody in the department, because of all the effort that was put forth during the rescue and recovery operations and the many months there afterwards deserved recognition.” The medal represents the fire dept coming together, and now looking towards the future.

Of course no ribbon can relieve the emotional and physical toll of nightmarish conditions we persevered through to retrieve our brothers and fellow Americans under the most straining conditions. And still, many firefighters are paying the price with poor health, incapacitation and weakness. Many great firefighters have died prematurely. But to a man, “nobody would have changed a thing.”

Let us never forget, all gave some, some gave all.