- Associated Press - Sunday, July 17, 2011

Actor Denis Leary has donated props, costumes and other objects from his TV series “Rescue Me” to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History because of the show’s connection to New York City firefighters after Sept. 11.

Mr. Leary’s firefighter costume, helmet and tools donated Thursday are the first items included in the museum’s entertainment collection relating to 9/11 as the 10th anniversary approaches. The FX firehouse drama is about firefighters dealing with the grief of losing friends and relatives at ground zero.

“The thing that was attractive to me was brave men and what they do,” Mr. Leary told the Associated Press, recalling how he created the show after his cousin died on duty as a firefighter and how he had admired the firehouse culture that helped them carry on amid tragedy. Mr. Leary also knew firefighters who were at ground zero on Sept. 11.

About a year after the attacks, he and co-creator Peter Tolan moved forward with the idea of a firehouse drama. The show had its final season premiere Wednesday night. It ends its seven-year run just before the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Its “tough and gritty portraits” of the lives of firefighters drew the museum’s attention, said Dwight Blocker Bowers, curator of the entertainment collections.

“The situations on the show perhaps add a little bit of soothing to the people who lived through 9/11 because the leading character is haunted by memories constantly,” he said.

Curators also have collected more than 350 real Sept. 11 objects from the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon, and the site of the Flight 93 plane crash in Pennsylvania, and some will be shown for the anniversary in September.

There are no immediate plans to display the items from “Rescue Me,” though Mr. Bowers said he expects the museum will find a space. He said it’s an opportunity to examine the impact of Sept. 11 on popular culture and how TV can mirror real concerns in American life, delving into issues of depression and alcoholism.