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Midway's Wall of Honor at Memorial Park in Matawan

In memoriam of all those lost on Sept. 11, the Matawan Borough Fire Department will assemble their Wall of Honor at Memorial Park.

Firefighters assemble the Wall of Honor at Memorial Park on Sept. 11, 2011. Photo Credit: Chelsea Naso
Firefighters assemble the Wall of Honor at Memorial Park on Sept. 11, 2011. Photo Credit: Chelsea Naso

The original version of this story ran on the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11. 

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, the numeric breakdown of those who perished shocked many.

For Midway Hose Company No. 2 of the Matawan Borough Fire Department, the number that hit home the hardest was 343 - the number of firefighters who ran into those burning buildings and never came out. 

"Right after 9/11 the company went into New York City with the truck for a memorial. Then one of the members said, 'Let's do something,'" said Cpt. Rich Michitsch. 

Members of the fire company decided to create a memorial called the Wall of Honor, which has become known as "the wall." The wall contains three components, but has continued to grow with the addition of flags and pieces of the twin towers.   

The center section contains the name and photograph of each firefighter who died, and includes a patch from each fire department that lost members that day. The section to the right contains the photos, names and patches for the law enforcement officers other emergency responders who died - the 23 New York Police Department officers, 37 Port Authority officers, 15 emergency medical technicians, 3 court officers, 2 FBI agents, one secret service agent and one K-9 unit. The third section, which was not designed by Midway, contains a flag filled with the names of every single person who died in the terrorist attack.

Michitsch estimates that the wall was completed in about one year and took about 480 hours.

"It's a photo, everything was done in Adobe Photoshop," Michitsch said. "It was about a year's effort to complete all three walls. And by hand and foot we collected all of the patches."

Michitsch emphasized that it was a group project involving the majority of the firefighters in the company at that time. Additionally, he said he is grateful to BNL Enterprises Inc., EL-CO Color Labs and Roma Custom Cabinets, Inc. for helping the department create the wooden frames the wall and the large easels needed for public display.

Each year, a new flag that has made the trip to the World Trade Center is hung on Midway's truck. It remains on the truck for an entire year until the anniversary of Sept. 11, when it is folded and added to the memorial.

And although Midway was not looking for recognition, their efforts did not go unnoticed. 

Midway has had the opportunity to set up their wall three times in New York City. Michitsch recalls one time when they set it up outside of St. Patrick's Cathedral.

"We set it up and walked across the street. Family members had the chance to see it, and many pinned prayer cards and placed flowers on it," Michitsch said.

In 2010, Midway Firefighter Justin Sampson applied to Port Authority for a piece of the World Trade Center to add to the Wall of Honor. Later that summer, Midway received full legal ownership over a piece of steel.

Matawan Borough Fire Department Fire Safety Official Raymond Bassford, a retired Jersey City firefighter, also donated a bolt from the towers to Midway. According to Michitsch, a piece of marble floor was also donated to the company from a Jersey City fire company.

Sampson, and his father, Dennis, purchased and assembled a display case for the steel, bolt and piece of marble and officially donated the case and its contents to Midway Hose Company No. 2. 

The Wall of Honor will be set up again this year on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 at 7 p.m. at Memorial Park. Firefighters, police officers and the first aid squad will all be present for a ceremony honoring the memory of all those who died that day. The public is encouraged to attend.

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