Berrey’s work hangs in NY engine house

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 16, 2001

Features Editor

Brandon Berrey was so affected by the attacks on the United States Sept. 11 that he had to find a way to express his emotions. He did so the only way he knew how – through art.

The Troy State University senior had no idea that his painting would take him on an incredible journey to a place where heroes trod and the land is hallowed ground.

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On Dec. 7, Berrey presented a framed print of his original painting titled, "God Bless America," to the firefighters of Engine 54/Ladder 4/ Battalion 9 in Manhattan. He called that day the greatest of his life.

"It was a very emotional experience," Berrey said. "I was choked up, but I didn’t cry. I can’t remember exactly what I said. I just told them how the painting came about and how it has been used to raise money for the families of the firefighters who lost their lives Sept. 11. I gave them the check for the $1,200 that has been raised so far. I don’t guess it was that much money, but it was what we had to give."

Four firefighters from Engine House #54 lost their lives in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.

"There were 26 men at that station and they hung out together every day," Berrey said. "There was a great sense of loss. Photographs of the men who were killed were hanging on the wall and they hung the print right in the middle of the photographs. It was the first artist presentation made to them and they were emotional about it."

Berrey has an aunt and uncle who were at the Pentagon Sept. 11. He told the firefighters he knew, first-hand, what it meant to worry about a loved one that day, but he had no idea what it was like to lose someone in a tragedy like that.

Heroes are usually bigger than life. They stand aloft among everyone else.

But sometimes heroes are ordinary guys and gals who go to work every day and do the best job they can and then go home to their families at night.

Berrey found himself among those everyday heroes at the Manhattan fire station.

"They grabbed me and pulled me into the back and put a firefighter’s helmet and jacket on me," he said, with a broad smile. "They just seemed like regular guys kidding around. They made me feel like a little kid again, but, then, I’m not really that old."

The firefighters signed Berrey’s FDNY cap and gave him an official Engine House sweatshirt.

"I was very proud of the sweatshirt because that’s something you can’t buy," he said. "But, most of all, I was proud just to be there among those men who are real heroes, every day of the week."

While in New York, Berrey and other members of the Troy State University sponsored tour group visited Ground Zero.

"A barricade wall is up and you can’t really see a lot, but it’s an emotional experience just to be there," Berrey said. "The wall is fenced off where people have placed flowers, pictures and other memorials and its guarded. I showed the guards the poster and they let me go and hang it on the wall. That was important to me and something I’ll always remember. But, the one thing I remember most, was how noisy New York was until you got to the block at

Ground Zero. Everything was so quiet and the people who were there just seemed to be in awe of the place."

Berrey came home in awe of a city and the men and women who, he believes, are really "New York’s finest."

"I’d heard a lot about New York and it wasn’t always good but I would move there in a minute if I got a chance," he said.

Berrey graduated from Troy State Friday, and said he’s ready, if that chance comes.