On the corner of W48th St. and 8th Ave in the heart of Manhattan’s Theater District, there is an FDNY firehouse. Officially, it is called Engine 54, Ladder 4. As with many Engine companies in New York City, the firefighters have their own nickname, or tag line, for their company which they paint on their trucks and signs on the firehouse: it’s pure Americana and I love it. The tag line of Engine 54 is the “Pride of Midtown.”
On September 11, 2001, Engine 54 responded to the unfolding disaster at The World Trade Center. Every man on duty, 15 in all, perished that day. They lost more firefighters than any single firehouse on 9/11. And we know that 343 FDNY “heroes” were lost on that very sad day, not to mention the thousands of other victims in New York, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
I’ve walked by that firehouse plenty of times (we lived a block away) and I remember the first time I read their tag line. It was stirring. I thought here’s a group of professionals brimming with pride at the work they do. I envied them their strong feelings of their mission and I wanted to put some of that in my job.
Today, all these years later, the “Pride of Midtown” holds a special place, among many special places, in the hearts and minds of New Yorkers, Americans, and the millions of tourists who flock to the greatest city on earth. They stop by the firehouses, including Engine 54, to pay tribute to those brave souls who never came home that day by saying a prayer or bringing flowers to the memorials each firehouse has in its garage.
Pride is a wonderful feeling. It makes work seem like, well, more than work. It elevates it to a mission, to something that carries special meaning. Certainly saving peoples’ lives and property from fire is certainly a mission you can sink your teeth into. But our work as project managers also has the potential to create strong feelings of joy and accomplishment. Witness the outpouring of joy at NASA’s Mission Control when a space craft lands successfully. Or how about the crane operator atop the new One World Trade Center currently undergoing construction who remarked to a New York Times reporter about his and his co-workers feelings about rebuilding Ground Zero “this is the greatest job we never wanted.” Now that’s pride.
We have it in our power to express our joy as well. For we are doing great things for the world in education, medicine, energy, transportation and other important fields through the projects we bring to fruition. Our work impacts millions of people. It’s work worthy of pride.
Below is a YouTube video of the memorial at Engine Company 54 including the pictures and names of the 15 men lost that day. Individually and collectively they embodied the spirit captured in their tag line the “Pride of Midtown.” Every time I read that line I get charged up. How about you?