Sunday, September 13, 2015

True Brotherhood

The University of Colorado, Boulder's student and alumni population is well-represented by those of us who call the New York metropolitan area home - including but not limited to two members of the Kenny Sibling Sextet.  And for the past fourteen years, CU and the FDNY have been linked by a rather extraordinary bond. 

An argument can be made that November 23, 2001 ranks among the greatest days in the history of intercollegiate athletics at the University of Colorado.  For it was on that late November day that the Buffs took their then-Big XII Conference rival, the Cornhuskers of the University of Nebraska, out behind the proverbial woodshed and annihilated them on national television to the tune of 62-36.  Among the thousands in attendance that day - on hand as the invited guests of then Buff Head Coach Gary Barnett - were thirteen members of Engine 1, Ladder 24 of the FDNY.  

On September 11, 2001 six members of Engine 1, Ladder 24 died while saving others at the World Trade Center.  Coach Barnett - sitting in his office in Boulder - watching the horror unfold from more than halfway across the continent - decided that he was going to do something - anything - to help ease the suffering of those who had suffered such a grievous loss.  Thus, seventy-three days after the worst day of their lives, which had been followed by seventy-plus equally horrible days spent combing through rubble and hoping against hope to find even one survivor, thirteen members of Engine 1, Ladder 24 of the FDNY stood on Folsom Field as the guests of the University of Colorado, Boulder to watch the Buffs tangle with the Cornhuskers. 

Engine 1, Ladder 24 FDNY
Folsom Field, Boulder, Colorado 
November 23, 2001

The following September, the FDNY Thirteen made a return trip to Boulder.  They brought with them on this journey a fourteenth member of the FDNY, FF Jimmy Cody.  Cody had been one of the dominant figures of the Ground Zero Clean-Up Crew who had - in his spare time - taken to welding crosses from the steel that had once been the Twin Towers.  Although their second trip to Boulder was (from a football perspective) markedly less successful than the first one had been (USC walloped the Buffs 40-3), it was a memorable visit.  The firemen brought with them a "Cody Cross" that FF Cody had made specifically for the Buffs.  The cross was welded from steel recovered from the South Tower, mounted on marble from the Towers and displayed with a piece of glass recovered from the North Tower.  On the glass, FF Cody etched, "CU Buffs + FDNY, True Brotherhood." 

In 2004, the Buffs captured the Big XII North Division title, an achievement for which the team members and coaches received rings.  On one side of the ringing was an etching of the photo above, which showed FF Cody's Cross, a helmet from Engine 1, a helmet from Ladder 24, and the helmet of CU fifth-year senior Sam Wilder.  Coach Barnett directed that each of the men from Engine 1, Ladder 24 with whom the Buffs had bonded during the 2001 season would receive a ring, a gesture that was masked as a surprise.  

When the Buffaloes made it to the Final Four of the NIT in the Spring of 2011, Basketball Coach Tad Boyle, his assistants, and his players paid a visit to Engine 1, Ladder 24.  While there, Coach Boyle posed for a picture with FF Jimmy Duffy, who had barely escaped death on September 11, 2001 and spent several hours buried in the rubble of the South Tower that day before he was rescued.  Coach Boyle and FF Duffy stood next to the ladder truck that flies the University of Colorado flag that Coach Barnett and his staff had given as a gift to the Thirteen in November, 2001.  

True Brotherhood.  



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