The "Kneeling Fireman" is one of NYC's 1st memorials to 9/11. The statue arrived in New York City two days before the death and destruction on 9/11 because it was originally commissioned by the Firefighters Association of Missouri.
Over 100 fire departments in Missouri met in 1954 for the purpose of forming a state-wide firemen’s association. Since organizing in 1954, the organization has grown from 600 members to more than 7,000 members.
October 2000 Matthews International Corporation of Pittsburgh received the commission to create the bronze statue for the Firefighters Association of Missouri. The Matthews International was formed in the middle of the 19th century when the founder of the company John Dixon Matthews arrive in US from England. Among the Matthews Bronze products are flush bronze memorials, cremation urns, and monuments. One of the most famous of the company's bronze memorials marks the grave of Elvis Presley.
The statue for Missouri was custom manufactured by Matthews plant in Parma, Italy in August 2001. On September 11, 2001 a 2,700-pound bronze statute sat at JFK International Airport en route from Italy.
"Our customers started calling us to find out if we had plaques, anything commemorative," Corinne Laboon, Matthews' public relations director said. "We sat down to discuss ideas and someone brought up the firefighter statue. We called the Firefighters Association and without hesitation they decided to dedicate the statue, with Matthews, to the citizens of New York." Matthews promised to the Firefighters Association of Missouri that Matthews would make and supply them a duplicate firefighter statue.
The employees at Matthews Pittsburgh bronze plant quickly made two plaques that accompany the statue. The Emergency Services plaque depicted sculpted images of firefighters, police officers and emergency services personnel in the line of duty. The second plaque entitled, "America the Beautiful", included popular U.S. scenes such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Mount Rushmore and the Liberty Bell framed by the words to the song " America the Beautiful".
New York Post said on 09/20/2001:
A bronze statue of an anguished firefighter was displayed in Midtown yesterday, causing passers-by to reflect, shed tears and pay respect to New York’s rescue heroes. The statue, which needs a permanent home, depicts a kneeling firefighter with his face buried in his right hand.
“He might be dejected over the death of a fellow fireman – or he could be a rescue worker kneeling from exhaustion,” said David DeCarlo of Matthews Bronze, the Pittsburgh company which designed the statue. “I decided it was meant to stay here ”.
DeCarlo drove from Pittsburgh to the airport and put the statue on the back of a flatbed truck, along with two plaques . Then he drove the statue to Midtown, where it was parked Tuesday in front of the Milford Plaza Hotel, owned by Milstein Family, on Eighth Avenue at West 44th Street. People laid flowers and candles by the statue."
Milford Plaza Hotel played an important role in emergency response, donating hundreds of rooms for volunteers from across the nation who came to help with the search and relief efforts. Thousands of New Yorkers and tourists visited the statue, many leaving candles, notes, prayer books, toys, and photos of loved ones lost in the tragedy.
Morris Milstein emigrated from Russia to New York in the early twentieth century. He started out scraping and refinishing wood floors. By 1919 Morris had founded the Circle Floor Company. His two children, Paul and Seymour, ventured into the construction and real estate business. The family developed some 50,000 apartments, 8,000 hotel rooms and 20 million square feet of office space.
|Memorial in Missouri|
Ten years after the statue was created, in 2011 "The Kneeling Fireman" found a permanent home at Emigrant's Midtown Headquarters, owned by Milstein Family.
“I am honored to be able to provide a home for this noble and inspiring statue,” said Howard P. Milstein, chairman and CEO of Emigrant, in a statement. “It is a fitting tribute to all first responders who answered the call on that fateful day.”
The copy of the statue was unveiled in Missouri during the Memorial dedication on May 18, 2002.