Grasp The Moment Photography

Smoke…

I was sitting in one of my favorite NYC bars one spring night. Nancy Whiskey’s is a great bar by the mouth of the Holland Tunnel. They make a great burger, however I don’t know if the taste is anywhere nearly as good as the ambiance. Nancy Whiskey’s is the only bar I know with a loft. The loft has a pitch so great, you can see it in your beer.

I was just finishing up my beer and my burger when I heard the people behind me joking about smelling smoke. They laughingly said the last place they wanted to die was in this bar, and I remember thinking to myself that there were a lot worse places to die.

It was obvious the fire was not in the bar itself, rather somewhere else in the tightly packed streets of lower Manhattan. Nancy Whiskey’s has large open front doors so the faint smoke in the air outside was drifting in. I downed the last of my beer, paid my tab, grabbed my camera bag and headed out. Any thoughts of not finding that fire was quickly erased when a NYC firetruck sped past me, lights blazing and sirens screaming through the night. I walked in the direction of the passing truck and only after a block or two could I see the commotion.

Let me explain something to those who don’t live in a big city. When there is a report of smelling of smoke, the FDNY sends out a truck. Then another one. When there is confirmation of smoke, another two trucks arrive. By the time actual flames are spotted, the entire block is filled with big red trucks and men waiting to do what the need to do. Now many people are quick to laugh and say that the fireman have nothing better to do… but it’s not that at all. Here in NYC – as I guess in other major cities – we are so crowded together that one tiny fire can lead to a disaster in minutes, thus the always heavy response.

So back to that night. The streets were closed off, as fire personnel ran hoses, set up equipment, etc. By the time I got as close as I could, the flames were pretty much gone, but the men still worked to make sure all was safe. I shot as much as I could of what was going and was pleased with some of what I came away with.

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The rest of the shots are here..
The blaze was out and even though two firemen went to the hospital for smoke inhalation, both were released the next day. There was no serious damage, and a few months later, you couldn’t even tell where the blaze was.

The story would be great if it ended there… but it didn’t.

A few months later, I got an email from a guy who ran a website called Ten House.com. It’s the “official” website of the FDNY fire company “Ten Truck”. Take some time and visit the site, you’ll see that with the proximity of the house to the World Trade Center, it’s a miracle it’s still there. Anyway my photos of the fire was seen on Flickr and they wanted to include on the site. I gave permission right away, and my shots are in the gallery section of the website.

The story would be great if it ended there… but it didn’t.

A few months later, I got a email from a firefighter, who was member of Ten Truck, and was there that night.He saw my photos and wanted to know if he could purchase a large print to hang in the firehouse. I got it printed and arranged to meet with him there. I arrived and they were out on a call, so I hung around until they returned. I met the fireman who contacted me and he quickly introduced me around as “hey, here’s the guy that took that great photo of us at work.” I wasn’t sure if he could tell, but my feet weren’t even on the ground. As if that wasn’t enough, one of the fireman shook my hand and said “hey, I use that picture as my desktop at home.”

I hung around briefly with the men, who did have things to do, so I handed over the print. They asked how much they owed and responded something like “It’s for all you do.”. They guys thanked me and one of them told me to wait. He disappeared in the back and returned with a FDNY Ten Truck t-shirt. To this day, it’s the best thanks I’ve ever gotten for taking a photo.

I took one that day… just one..

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6 responses

  1. Jenn

    These feel the same to me now as they did then-
    somber and real,
    I can almost smell the smoke,
    and feel the adrenaline
    Why did you wait so long on these?

    October 23, 2008 at 12:07 am

  2. suehenryphotography

    Oh Brian. You tell such wonderful stories to accompany your wonderful images. Bravo!

    October 23, 2008 at 7:27 am

  3. Mike

    You’re a good man Brian but then again if you had charged the guy I woulda smacked you in the back of the head!

    October 23, 2008 at 7:56 am

  4. What a wonderful story. The images are simply wonderful…

    October 23, 2008 at 1:19 pm

  5. JRP

    I always thought it was so awesome that you seem to be in the “right place at the right time” for many things that happen in the city. This was one of your great moments!

    October 25, 2008 at 8:27 pm

  6. Brian, that’s an amazing and heartwarming story. I got a chill!

    October 29, 2008 at 1:00 pm

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