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9/11 Street Sign Named For Seven Fallen Firefighters

9/11 Street Sign Named For Seven Fallen Firefighters

Firefighters from Ladder 101 Engine 202 dedicated the renaming of Richards Street in Red Hook to seven firefighters from the company who lost their lives on 9/11. [New York Daily News]

New York Daily News via YellowBrix

July 06, 2011

NEW YORK, NY – Ralph Gullickson never found his firefighter brother’s remains after 9/11. All he has is a street sign honoring him – and now a city atheist group wants to take it away.

The Manhattan-based NYC Atheists are demanding the city change the name of a Brooklyn block christened “Seven in Heaven Way” in honor of seven area firefighters killed in the Sept.11 attacks.

“We weren’t even able to recover my brother’s remains. These little things like a sign is all we have left,” said Gullickson, 44, referring to his brother Joseph. “How dare these people try to take it away from us.”

“He didn’t go in there that day and ask people what their religion [was] or whether they believed in God. He just went to save people,” Gullickson added.

“It’s disgusting and horrible,” said Catherine O’Mara, 71, whose son-in-law Brian Cannizzaro is honored on the sign. “This means everything to the women who lost their husbands.”

Richards St. in Red Hook was officially given the heavenly name last month to salute the seven fallen firefighters assigned to Ladder Co. 101/Engine Co. 202.

Community Board 6 and the City Council approved the change.

But Ken Bronstein, head of NYC Atheists, said he and his lawyers are mulling a lawsuit.

“We are not against honoring anyone who died or served on 9/11,” Bronstein said. "What we’re against is the use of the word ‘heaven,’ which is a religious concept.

“The Founding Fathers set up separation of church and state. We need to draw a line in the sand. This is not a Christian nation. This is a republic.”

Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6, was unmoved by Bronstein’s threats, saying, “There was a public process, and they had ample opportunity to make their feelings known.”

Josh Roxas, a 28-year-old atheist, who works in the area, agreed, saying, “These guys gave their lives for us. They deserve that sign.”