MAYFIELD - Images of black smoke billowing from the Twin Towers in the World Trade Center and the mangled steel rising from the ashes are enough to evoke spine-tingling memories for any American who lived through the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
For Lt. Larry Mack of the New York City Fire Department Engine Company 50 in the Bronx, whose company saw the South Tower collapse, the day is etched in his memory, just as the name of his best friend who died in the attacks is etched on a bracelet he wears around his wrist every day.
Mack served as the grand marshal at Saturday's Bannertown Parade, which was dedicated to the remembrance of the victims of the attacks.
The American Legion Color Guard marches during the annual Bannertown Parade in Mayfeld on Saturday.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey, who served at Ground Zero after the attacks with eight other members of his department, led the parade.
"I was working that day," Mack recalled. "We were driving there thinking we were going to put out a fire that was bigger than we were used to."
When Mack's company arrived the South Tower had already collapsed. As the North Tower started to shake Mack and his company ran for cover. All of his firefighters survived except one, Robert W. Spear, who was asked to help out a company in Manhattan that day.
"I was one of the lucky ones," Mack said. "Sometimes it feels like 10 years ago. Sometimes it feels like it happened yesterday."
He told the story of his best friend, Lt. Vincent G. Halloran, of Ladder 8 who was on the 30th floor of one of the towers when the orders came to get out.
Halloran was able to get his crew of five firefighters out of the building, but Mack said he probably went back to help someone.
"It's still fresh in people's minds," Mack said. "There is an underlying threat of terrorism all the time. We have to support the troops [abroad] protecting us."
Caroga Lake volunteer firefighter Joe Ricciardi, also a longtime friend of Mack who has been riding with and photographing for FDNY for decades, decorated a Durti Mack truck, owned by Michele Litts, with a Sept. 11 memorial that featured photos he took at Ground Zero as he rode with Mack's company after the attack, as well as a photo of every FDNY firefighter killed in the attack.
The display, which also featured Ricciardi's uncle's original leather hat from Brooklyn's Ladder Company 157, won "best 9/11 memorial" in the parade.
Many other floats were decorated in remembrance of Sept. 11 victims. The Broadalbin-Perth Lions Club's float featured a cutout of the city skyline with a flag draped around the frames of the Twin Towers.
The Glen Volunteer Fire Department's float featured large wooden crates painted as Twin Towers replicas and giant sparklers on the four corners of the float.
Tina Denton of the Auxiliary Committee said it took about a week for the fire department to complete the float. Glen Fire Chief Jd Downing recalled exactly where he was, making a delivery for Bellevue Builders on Route 7 when he heard the news.
"This was our defining moment. It's seared in our brains forever," Downing said.
Glen First Asst. Chief Sean Lemiszki was in a physical therapy session when he heard the news. Lemiszki was injured in 2000 when a brick wall fell on four Glen firefighters at the Old Lynwood Hand Farm Store on Route 30A, a fire that was later determined to be arson.
Lemiszki's leg was broken and his back injured. He is able to serve again, but his story highlights the many dangers firefighters face.
This year's parade featured a prayer service at the intersection of School and Main streets officiated by the Cranberry Creek Community Church and the Fulton County Sheriff's Association Chaplain, the Rev. Mike Delaney, for the remembrance of victims of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and Pentagon as well as passengers aboard Flight 93.
Allyson Crowley-Duncan played the bagpipes and Andy and DiAnne Mott played TAPS.
Parade Committee Chairman Mark Proper said nearly 90 groups participated in the parade this year, which is "definitely an increase," he said, adding that he was honored to have Mack at the event.
He said he and Mack became friends after he traveled to the Bronx to spend a 24-hour shift with Mack's company.
Proper said the committee sent out applications to be involved in the parade statewide, attracting fire companies from at least five counties and as far away as Cobleskill.
Ray Tylutki was the MC for the event for the second year and chose three judges randomly from the crowd.
"I was honored this year to do it as a tribute to 9/11 [victims.] I was honored to be asked to come and meet someone like FDNY Lt. Mack," Tylutki said.
Proper said the group had been planning the event, also marking the Bannertown Fair and Parade's 35th anniversary, since 2009.
"We had a few people that didn't show up, but that's understandable for any situation. Overall we had a good turnout not just from the parade participants, but also from people coming to watch the parade," Proper said.
Cheryl Bowman and her husband Bill, both of Mayfield, took their one-year-old grandson visiting from Minot, N.D. to the parade.
"This was very nice. They did a good job," Bowman said of the parade.
As for her grandson, Tanner Baker's favorite part of the parade, "the firetrucks definitely," Bowman said.
Amanda Whistle can be reached at email@example.com