The Flag of Honor at Fire Department No. 4

We took a walk this weekend on Scott Boulevard and eventually found our way to Fire Station No. 4. At first, we were struck by what looked like a real Dalmatian apparently sitting just inside the door. It was a pretty good sculpture. Just behind it was a large American Flag hanging on the wall. Below it was the title “Flag of Honor.”

One of the firefighters noticed us and welcomed us inside. He talked a long time about the Iowa City Fire Department and what they did. They responded to a lot of medical calls. In fact, those were the most frequent calls, fires not so much. He graciously answered our questions, including the one about The Flag of Honor on the wall. It’s to honor the victims and the heroes of the September 11, 2001 attack on America.

Later, I found out more on the web about the Flag of Honor. Over 800,000 Flags have been distributed across America. They’re in many places: public buildings, private homes, police and EMS stations, and firehouses.

I remember where I was on September 11, 2001. I was running up the stairs from the lower level to the first floor. I think I had just finished a psychiatric consultation and I was probably on my way to another one, or to my office. It was my usual routine. Like most general hospital psychiatric consultants, I was a lot like a firefighter, going from one urgent consultation to another, to the critical care unit, the emergency room, and others. My pager was like a fire alarm and off I would go.

 I was on the stair landing just going up to the first floor. The stairs overlooked a lobby and the television on the wall was showing a video of one of New York City’s Twin Towers on fire, smoke all around it.

I stopped in my tracks and watched, not comprehending the scene. I can’t remember if the volume was high enough for me to hear the reporter. I don’t think it was. I just saw the fire and the smoke and at that moment I didn’t know what happened. That news I wouldn’t hear until later.

And then much later, in the summer of 2017, Sena and I took a vacation in New York City. Like many tourists, we saw the reflecting pools and Sena took a snapshot of me by the Callery Pear—the Survivor Tree.

The firefighter finally had to excuse himself, because there was somewhere he had to go, something he had to do.

He had probably been busy when we showed up, remarking on the Dalmatian which looked so lifelike, taking pictures of the Flag of Honor, asking questions about what Fire Station No. 4 does, listening to his answers, admiring his patience, his sense of humor, his sense of duty—and thanking him for all of it.

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