"May We Never Forget"

Saturday, July 1, 2006 - 01:00

Martha M. Driver

Sunday, June 11 was a beautiful, warm day filled with the solemnity surrounding the object of dedication - a memorial wall at the firehouse across from the site of the World Trade Center, 10 House/10 Ladder on Liberty Street. Facing the audience stood a 56-foot-long and six-foot-high bronze bas-relief memorial bolted to the side of the firehouse, a memorial to the 343 firefights who gave their lives in their effort to save others on September 11. Also remembered was a valiant, young partner of one of the nation's leading law firms, Glenn J. Winuk, who, having volunteered for the Jericho, New York Fire Department, rushed out of his Holland & Knight offices to assist in the rescue effort.

Emblazoned across the face of the memorial are the words: "Dedicated to those who fell and to those who carry on. May we never forget." The flaming towers of the buildings illuminated by the second jet plane hitting the South Tower stand out starkly in the central panel. On either side are scenes of firefighters laying down hose lines, firefighters washing their faces at a hydrant, a fireboat in the background, a weary firefighter reaching skyward. Beneath the scene are listed the names of the 343 firefighters (four from Firehouse 10), a number larger than the total number of firefighters who had lost their lives since the founding of the New York City Fire Department. Beside the large mural is a plaque dedicated to Glenn Winuk.

The genesis of the memorial is an interesting one. It represents the finest example of collaboration between a public entity, the New York City Fire Department, spearheaded by Assistant Chief Harold Meyers, FDNY Manhattan Borough Commander, and a private partnership, the 1,200 lawyer Holland & Knight firm.

It all came about through the wishes of the law firm to honor one of their own and the efforts of a Holland & Knight couple, Brian Starer and his wife, Cheryl Roy Starer, as well as the unstinting dedication of the entire Holland & Knight family which gave so generously - $530,000 - to see this very special memorial come about.

Ice Transformed To Bronze

Cheryl Starer served as a volunteer at a triage center, Public School 234, four blocks from Ground Zero, just after the planes hit. Noting that the usual therapy for burning eyes, eye drops, were not working, Ms. Starer called upon her husband to secure ice for cold compresses. Brian Starer solicited ice from three ice companies - Nuzzolese Brothers Ice, Diamond Ice Cube and Maplewood Ice - who delivered 20 tons of ice daily to the site for one month without charge. After one month, some payment was required. Brian Starer then reached out to executives at three shipping companies to create an Ice Fund for Ground Zero. After three months, the need for ice had disappeared, but some funds were left. As Brian Starer stated in his address to the crowd at Sunday's dedication, "We knew that the unused ice funds within our Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation could grow into a lasting tribute if we could translate the passion and courage of what we saw at Ground Zero."

Brian Starer, Chair of the Holland & Knight 9-11 Memorial Committee, offered to donate the funds for a fire truck but was persuaded by fire officials to use the funds for a memorial to the firefighters, and, of course, to pay homage to one of Holland & Knight's own, Glenn Winuk.

So began the odyssey of setting in motion the mechanism of building a memorial in early 2004. Starer's team and Chief Harold Meyers' team contacted the Rambusch Company, an 108-year-old decorative metalwork, stained glass and lighting company in Jersey City. Coincidentally, Chairman Viggo Rambusch and sons are related to Lennard Rambusch, a Holland & Knight partner. The Rambusches suggested that Joseph Petrovics be engaged as sculptor, and, after some hesitation owing to the enormity of the task of bringing together all of the disparate views as to how to best immortalize the heroes of that day, he agreed to take on the task. Petrovics modeled in plasticine the model designed by Joseph A. Oddi, a delineator, who sketched his preliminary vision drawing upon recollections of firefighters meeting in Chief Meyers's office. Full-scale models were made in plasticene. Negative models were made from the clay and used to make positive casts. They in turn were pressed into a mixture called "French sand" which created a mold in which the bronze could be cast at the Bidi-Makky Art Foundry in Brooklyn. The 7,000-pound bronze was moved in three parts to Manhattan on May 19.

At The Dedication

Broadcasting remotely at the dedication on June 11 were President George W. Bush, Governor George Pataki of New York and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Holland & Knight managing partner Howell Melton welcomed the families of the 343 firefighters, the Winuk family, representatives of the many FDNY firehouses, FDNY Deputy Fire Commissioner Milton Fischberger, Assistant Chief Harold Meyers, FDNY Borough Commander and the Holland & Knight family and friends. Mr. Melton and other partners and staff members had been the driving force behind the funding of this extraordinary memorial by 1,167 Holland & Knight partners, staff members and friends through the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation.

Howell Melton underscored Holland & Knight's core value commitment - to give back and support the communities in which the firm's members work. The predecessor firm, Haight, Gardner, Poor & Havens, had held a presence in the financial district since 1830. "But on September 11, 2001 our partner, Glenn Winuk made the ultimate sacrifice to his community along with hundreds of others. Glenn gave his life to save others."

Following Howell Melton, Brian Starer stated eloquently the purpose of the wall, "a timeless tribute not only to the firefighters who carried on on that day but to the firefighters everywhere for all time Finally, on behalf of all the donors I humbly present this memorial wall in honor of that which represents the best of this city, the sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, and family members who are gone. Visitors will be drawn from all over the world to come here and honor and reflect and possibly to pray. That will be for another day. Today is for all of you. Thank you and God bless America."

Conclusion

In concluding the remarks of the day, Jay Winuk, brother of Glenn Winuk, provided a powerful statement: "This memorial says everything one needs to know about the soul and character of the fine people of this firm and its friends. This is not only a gift to the FDNY and this amazing city. I think this memorial is nothing short of a statement to the world that in this city and country we value life. We value courage. We value honor and we honor those who sacrifice for others. We are at once compassionate and resilient. We are principled. We survive adversity and then we flourish."

The program concluded with the acceptance of the memorial by Milton Fischberger, FDNY Deputy Fire Commisioner, and Assistant Chief Harold Meyers on behalf of the Fire Department of New York. The choir of Trinity Church Princeton sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

Martha M. Driver is the Publisher of this newspaper. She may be reached at mdriver@mycomcast.com.