“It’s hard to leave here. I have children and grandchildren here,” Mr. Kotula said. “But maybe it’s time.”
Mr. Ostrofsky’s situation is different. He has been with the department for 13 years, less than half the time as Mr. Kotula. He was assigned to the 35 ladder on Jan. 6, 2001. Because of a rotation the department was using at the time, he was not working out of that house on Sept. 11. He was off duty on the fateful day.
Afterward, he asked to be transferred back to the 35. That move became official on Sept. 29, 2001.
Though he didn’t have Mr. Kotula’s tenure, he knew the men who were killed and knew the house hierarchy would change. There is a definite pecking order beyond the traditional ranks. Men like Giberson and Gary, universally respected leaders with dominant personalties, were gone.
“A lot of the guys we lost were guys who enabled us to move in the right direction, and a lot of that was taken away that day,” said Mr. Ostrofsky, 44. “The guys who were left were emotionally and physically devastated. To have to step into that role overnight is a very difficult thing. I thought there were things I could do to help.
“You can go to a fire academy all you want, but you don’t learn this job until you actually get in a firehouse and live and breathe it and eat it and sleep it. This job is more than just getting on a truck. A firehouse is where you breed what you need to do on the fire scene. Not thinking about ourselves, doing what you need for others translates into what you do on the fire scene.”
Mr. Ostrofsky has taken on the role of unofficial house spokesman and has been something of a liaison between the old and the new. Of the 45 men currently assigned to the 40-35, nine firefighters and one officer were assigned there on Sept. 11, 2001.
Many of the families who lost members are still in touch and will be at the house on Sunday for a bigger-than-usual memorial. Some are still struggling. Not everybody from the house was found. Figures from New York Magazine say that of the 2,819 victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, a total of 1,717 families haven’t received any remains.
“We keep in touch with as many families as will allow us to keep in touch with them,” Mr. Ostrofsky said. “We’re always very accommodating with them, and I think we do a great job when it comes to the anniversary every year.
“I don’t think this one means anything more to me personally beyond the fact that society has this whole 10-year anniversary thing and people are coming out of the woodwork and coming to the firehouse. It is a big undertaking to try to accommodate the families, the friends, the retirees who all come out.
“So in that aspect, typically from year to year, starting in late July to August, the stress level goes up. Can I put my finger on why? Not really, but Sept. 11 is coming.”
Mr. Ostrofsky’s daughter, Eliza, was born a month before the attacks.
“Unfortunately, I missed a lot of her first year on this planet because I was so wrapped up,” he said. “I always look at her and I say she kept me hanging on. It was memorial services and then funerals and memorial services.
“The things I’ve experienced in the past 10 years, sometimes it takes a lifetime to experience all that.”