Mothers Of Black 9/11 Firefighters Fight To Keep Their Memory Alive
On September 11th, The New York Fire Department held tributes and memorials that seemed to be missing a few faces and names.
Leon Smith was one of 12 black firefighters to lose his life that day and his body was never found. Their stories have gone largely untold, and their faces are rarely shown in the photo exhibits or memorial projects dedicated to the fallen firefighters.
The FDNY is made up of mostly White members and 3 percent of the force is Black.
Shortly after 9/11, the Vulcan Society, an organization for New York’s black firefighters, sent out fliers announcing a memorial ceremony for the 12 who had been killed.
Several of the fliers were defaced. Someone wrote “Lick me” on one, and “What about the white guys?” on another.
Irene Smith, Leon’s mother, got the city to co-name the family’s block in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn as Firefighter Leon W. Smith, Jr. Way.
“Leon’s memory will always, always be around,” Smith said. “Nobody will ever forget about my son as long as I have breath in my lungs to speak his name.”
Smith and other mothers, both black and white, lean on each other for support. Once a month, the mothers of Ladder Company 118 have a conference call where they share the latest goings-on. They meet occasionally for lunch and run into each other at events, especially around the anniversary of the attacks.