FDNY Firefighters Forced To Remove American Flag Tribute to 9/11 Heroes From Fire Engine

Source: Carlina Rivera / X/DC_Draino

FDNY Engine Company 28 Ladder 11 sparked a bit of controversy last month for displaying a ‘Red Line’ American flag on one of their fire engines. The complaint came from a NYC resident who described the flag as a ‘fascist symbol’ and demanded it be taken down immediately. Here’s what you need to know!

What Does The ‘Red Line’ Flag Represent? 

The ‘Red Line’ flag is a black-and-white variation of the American flag that features a single red stripe (the eighth stripe on the flag). It was created to show solidarity with firefighters – more specifically, being used as a memorial for those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. 

Source: Flickr/JanetandPhil

FDNY’s Ladder 11 flies the flag next to a memorial placard on the back of its fire engine. The placard honors the six Ladder 11 firefighters who lost their lives while responding to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. 

Remembering Those Who Lost Their Lives

In 2001, two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center – starting with the North Tower at around 8:45 a.m. on 9/11, and concluding with the South Tower less than 20 minutes later. The South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m., and the North Tower followed at 10:28 a.m.

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More than 200 FDNY units responded to the attack – including Ladder 11 of East Village. Six of those firefighters – Lt. Michael Quilty and Firefighters Michael Cammarata, Edward Day, John Hefferman, Richard Kelly Jr., and Matthew Rogan – were killed in action.

Lisander Rosario Sends Email To FDNY

On March 19, Lisander Rosario (a staffer for Democratic Manhattan Councilwoman Carlina Rivera) sent an email to FDNY Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator Madison Hernandez. The email discussed a ‘constituent’ who complained about the ‘Red Line’ flag being flown. 

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“It is to both his and our understanding that private political symbols aren’t permitted to be displayed on public vehicles,” Rosario wrote in the email. “Can you confirm if there are any violating flags/symbols on Ladder 11?”

Constituent Visits FDNY Firehouse To Complain

Three days later, on March 22, the alleged ‘constituent’ took matters into their own hands when they rode up to the Ladder 11 firehouse on a bicycle. He proceeded to complain about the flag, and even went as far as calling it a ‘fascist symbol.’ 

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It wasn’t immediately clear why the constituent compared the flag to fascism, but it could have something to do with ‘red fascism’ – a term that links fascism to Stalinism and other variants of Marxism–Leninism. Then again, red is also used to symbolize love – so his argument was a reach.

FDNY Deputy Chief Tells Ladder 11 To Remove Flag

Mere hours after the constituent left the firehouse, FDNY Deputy Chief Joseph Schiralli showed up at the Ladder 11 firehouse to de-escalate the issue. He was firm in claiming that the flag violated a prohibition of flying ‘altered’ versions of the American flag.

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While Schiralli agreed that removing the flag was ‘ridiculous,’ he ultimately sided with the constituent and demanded the flag be removed from the fire truck immediately.

What Rule Was Ladder 11 Violating? 

The rule Schiralli was referring to was enacted in 2020 at the height of the Black Lives Matters movement – which was met by the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ movement. Then-Commissioner Daniel Nigro and then-First Deputy Commissioner Laura Kavanagh implemented the rule. 

Source: Flickr/KingsburyPhotography

New York wasn’t alone in its fight against the ‘Red Line’ flag. That same year, firefighters in Massachusetts were forced to remove the flag, which had been flying outside the firehouse for more than two years. They ultimately complied but put up quite a fight.

Rogan O’Handley Defends Use Of The Flag

On March 22, conservative Instagram influencer Rogan O’Handley took to his X account and posted about the encounter between the constituent and the FDNY. According to him, the constituent asked, “Isn’t that flag in support of the police?”

Source: Flickr/KingsburyPhotography

“The very next morning a FDNY Division Chief shows up and told them it must come down and it is an order,” O’Handley wrote. “I repeat – NY firefighters were forced to take down a memorial for those that died on 9/11. What’s happened to NYC?!”

FDNY Commissioner Reverses Decision

Just a few hours after the FDNY Deputy Chief ordered the flag to be removed from the rig, FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh – who was behind the 2020 rule – surprised everyone when she reversed the decision to remove the flag. 

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The firefighters put the flag back on the truck without hesitation. “We’re happy with the outcome of this — but we’re offended it happened in the first place,” said one Ladder 11 firefighter after the fact.

Ladder 11 Firemen Speak Out Against Rivera

Several other firefighters from FDNY’s Ladder 11 spoke out against Councilwoman Rivera and her plan to have the flag removed. One firefighter claimed that the flag ‘has huge significance for us’ – as it serves as a reminder to those they lost more than two decades ago. 

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“I wish [Rivera’s office] would have come at it like ‘Hey, we want to learn about the flag and what it represents’ before they asked for it to be taken down,’” another Ladder 11 fireman said.

Rivera Says Relationship With FDNY Is Strong

With the story gaining national attention, Rivera responded to the backlash and claimed that her office never contacted the firehouse. She confirmed that the complainant wasn’t a staffer of hers, but rather a constituent of the city. 

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The staffer who sent the email wasn’t demanding it be removed, but was simply asking if the firehouse had ‘political symbols’ on display. “We have heard nothing further from the FDNY and have taken no additional action on this matter,” she said – claiming that her relationship with the fire department ‘has always been strong.’ 

Rivera Has A History Of Wanting To Defund Police

According to the New York Post, Rivera has ‘allocated $450,000 in Council discretionary funds to improve the ladder company’s firehouse.’ Nonetheless, NYC residents aren’t forgetting her hard stance against police officers during the Black Lives Matter movement. 

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Rivera, who used to belong to the Democratic Socialists of America, was one of the many council members who voted to defund the police department by more than $1 billion in 2020. She has also criticized police officers regularly during her time in politics.

Councilwoman Joann Ariola Cites First Amendment Right

Councilwoman Joann Ariola – a Republican who represents the 32nd Council District, where she has lived her entire life – criticized the constituent for their attempt at removing the flag.

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She went on to call it a ‘sanctioned attack on the First Amendment rights of our civil servants’ – strong words from a councilwoman who chairs the fire and emergency management committee. 

Red Line Flag Vs. Blue Line Flag

Critics of the ‘Red Line’ flag are being compared to critics of the ‘Blue Line’ flag – which is a symbol of support for police officers across the country. In fact, some people believe the ‘Red Line’ flag is being confused with the ‘Blue Line’ flag. 

Source: Flickr/Maldak

The ‘Blue Line’ flag has been banned by several police departments in the United States over the past few years, but it shouldn’t be confused with the ‘Red Line’ flag – which is nothing more than a way of honoring firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

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Ryan Handson

Written by Ryan Handson

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