Midtown firehouse devastated by 9/11 deaths now a tourist attraction for selfie-shooting out-of-towners
The Midtown firehouse devastated by the 9/11 loss of 15 firefighters now doubles as a global tourist attraction, with hundreds of daily visitors snapping selfies and squeezing the biceps of the brawny smoke eaters.
The boxy firehouse on Eighth Ave. and W. 48th St. draws a cornucopia of international guests eager to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Bravest at Engine 54, Ladder 4 and Battalion 9.
“They are like the heroes of New York,” said Ruben Gilroy, 20, of the Netherlands, who used his phone to snap a picture of his kid sister Rose. “We learned about their story at the 9/11 Memorial.”
The house’s 135-year history took a deep, dark turn on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when all 15 members of the night shift headed downtown to the burning towers of the World Trade Center. None made it back, with the firehouse absorbing the highest death toll of any in the city.
The site became an impromptu shrine to the lost firefighters, with visitors leaving endless bouquets, drawings and stuffed animals. Visitors were invited to leave their thoughts inside a leather-bound book at the Theater District firehouse with its “Never Missed a Performance” motto.
Eighteen years later, things are dramatically different for the upbeat firehouse guests. Spanish tourist Curry Perez flexed his biceps in a strongman pose for a photo with a trio of firefighters.
“I am a police officer in Seville, Spain,” he explained. “They risk their lives for others.”
Firefighters Charles Turner, 32, Dujuan Smith, 30, and Walter Beltran, 28, had the assignment of graciously smiling for their admirers.