THE VILLAGES (Fla) There are 343 pictures on Bob Ogren s golf cart, each one a firefighter killed on Sept. 11, 2001. And Ogren, a retired New York firefighter, knew a lot of them.
I worked with him when he was a battalion chief, Ogren said, pointing to William Feehan, who had worked his way up the ranks to first deputy commissioner. He was a battalion chief in the 31st Battalion.
Many of the firefighters, such as Michael Boyle, were the sons of firefighters Ogren had worked with during his 28-year career.
But the most difficult picture for Ogren to look at on his memorial golf cart is the one of Joseph Ogren, his son. Jay, as he was called, was one of 12 lost from Ladder 3.
Just a dream
Ogren was playing golf when the attacks happened.
I was told that the plane had gone into the World Trade Center, Ogren said, who saw the attacks on television when he went for lunch. I didn t think it was anything like what I saw. On his way home, Ogren stopped by the Staten Island Borough headquarters where he saw a bunch of rigs from New Jersey parked out front.
It ended up that all of the firemen were gathering around there, Ogren said, adding that a call had been put out asking all retired firefighters to meet there.
Ogren and some of his friends, also firefighters, decided they would go over to ground zero.
We went over and it was like a bad dream, Ogren said. The dust was all over the place.
It was hard to accept and I thought it was a dream and that I would wake up.
One-hundred and five stories came down into the basement of the World Trade Center, Ogren said, and there wasn t much sticking out of the ground.
I had open-toe sandals on and a golf shirt, Ogren remembers. Someone gave him a Fire Department of New York City shirt to wear, but he refused to take any closed-toe shoes.
It didn t really matter at that time, he said.
Ogren was trying to find out information about his son, but said even the fire chiefs he knew couldn t give him any information.
All that was ever found of Jay was a bone fragment.
While living in Hollywood, Fla., Ogren heard about a fire engine the local fire department turned into a memorial.
The engine featured the pictures of all the firefighters killed on Sept. 11, and it was used for a variety of fundraising events.
When Ogren moved to his Village of Liberty Park home about nine months ago, he decided he wanted to do a similar tribute.
Ogren approached Yesteryear Karts six months ago with the project, armed with a book about fire engine designs through the years and a Sept. 11 book about the fallen firefighters.
The 9/11 book was to show them the feelings, Ogren said. It was to instill upon them the importance of doing this right.
It has to be treated with respect.
It was six months of designing the cart and having parts done and redone, Ogren said, which wore down on him.
A lot of times, when I was leaving there and going home, I had tears in my eyes, Ogren said.
I was gung ho on doing it (in the beginning), Ogren added. Now I m finding it hard to do.
But the end product is a fire engine golf cart with New York City Fire Department decals on either door, and a picture of every firefighter killed on Sept. 11.
The firefighters appear on the cart in alphabetical order, 172 on one side of the golf cart, 171 on the other.
I wanted it to be in alphabetical order, Ogren said. Because no matter what rank they were, they were all heroes.
Ogren said he wants to have the golf cart displayed at special occasions, ideally using it at charitable events.
I don t really want to use the golf cart to go play golf in, he said. My thoughts were to have it and always keep it in the minds of people.
Ogren said he has a few more customizations planned for the golf cart he ll do himself, such as putting candles on the cart that people can light in memory of a person.
Ogren received the golf cart last week, and he said it brought tears to his eyes seeing it completed.
He said he s happy with what Yesteryear did for him.
They bent over backwards to get it done, he said.
The day the cart arrived, Ogren said he got a special message of approval from the 343 firefighters it honors.
It was a bright, sunny day and it hadn t rained in three weeks, Ogren said. Then, while Ogren was looking at the golf cart in his driveway it started to drizzle.
You couldn t tell it rained on the streets, but there were rain drops on the golf cart, he said.I have to think it was 343 drops, Ogren added, his voice trembling. They were sending a message.