Good morning. It’s Monday. We’ll find out why someone Jets fans know as Firefighter Ed will be on duty at MetLife Stadium tonight, so to speak. We will also meet the swimmer who is almost done with his month-long journey along the Hudson River.
The Jets open their season tonight against the Buffalo Bills. Will Aaron Rodgers live up to the hype? This much is certain: A retired firefighter and steamfitter known at MetLife Stadium as Firefighter Ed will do what he does: shout, parade and cheer on the fans. Our writer Bernard Mokam explains who Fireman Ed is and how he became so present at Jets Games.
According to Edwin Anzalone’s season tickets, he belongs in section 116 of MetLife Stadium. He doesn’t stay there long. In his trademark fire helmet, sometimes with eye paint on his face, Anzalone – Fireman Ed to fans – seems to be everywhere, leading the chant that has woven itself into the team’s identity: “JETS, Jets, Jets, Jets! ”
He roars. He hits the helmet. He grins. Anything to make the fans scream louder.
“Nobody rocks the song like him,” says Tyson Rauch, 50, a season ticket holder and one of the hosts of the “Let’s Talk Jets Radio” podcast, who marvels at Anzalone’s passion. “You can feel it – the veins are popping out of his forehead.”
Others admire his mobility. “One minute he was on the lower level,” recalls Kevin Sirkin, 35, host of two Jets podcasts, including one with Anzalone. “The next moment he appeared on the upper deck.”
Anzalone endeared himself to his fellow fans during the hard times – the tough losses and the long stretches of mediocrity. “The atmosphere and the way he made the games so much fun to go to, that really got me hooked as a kid,” said Sirkin, whose seats at the old Giants Stadium were two sections down from Anzalone’s.
Optimism surrounds the Jets right now, and tonight Anzalone plans to “get the crowd going early.”
“We were in a desert for a long time,” he said. But Rodgers’ arrival has strengthened his belief: “We are going to win a world championship with Aaron Rodgers.”
Anzalone, 63, grew up in College Point, Queens, and attended his first Jets game as a teenager in 1974. He remembers running down College Point Boulevard and across the Flushing Bay Promenade to Shea Stadium, where the Jets were then playing (just like the Mets). His destination was somewhere below the Grand Central Parkway, where his brother Frankie was tailgating.
“As a kid you were all excited to be with your older brother,” he said, “and that’s how I really started to like the Jets.” Frankie Anzalone also played a role in Edwin becoming firefighter Ed in 1986.
“It was dead” around their seats at Giants Stadium, Anzalone recalled, “so I started running down the aisle trying to get the fans going.” He climbed onto the railing so the fans could see him, but almost fell over.
Frankie grabbed him and gave an order: “Sit on my shoulders.”
That got them noticed and the character of Fireman Ed began to take shape. A few years later he borrowed a helmet at a game in Buffalo and later brought his own (as a firefighter he was assigned to Engine 69 and Ladder 28 in Harlem). In the early 1990s, ESPN host Chris Berman coined the nickname.
He took a few years off as Firefighter Ed starting in 2012, but still attended games. The team held competitions to find song leaders who could fill the void. “But it just wasn’t the same,” Rauch recalled. “The stadium lacked the energy.” Anzalone returned in 2015.
He can’t pinpoint exactly how many games he’s attended since his first in ’74, but he hasn’t missed many, he said. He went to championship games in Miami in 1982 and Denver in 1998, but stayed home for the 2009 one against the Indianapolis Colts. He wanted to try something different. ‘My superstition,’ he said, ‘maybe the third was the charm. That didn’t work.” The Jets lost 30-17.
The disappointments haven’t stopped him. “If you’re a fan, you’re a fan,” Anzalone said, “when they win and when they lose.”
He inherited this attitude from Frankie, who died last September from esophageal cancer.
Frankie “always felt like every year was our year,” Anzalone said. “That’s why we did what we did. We tried to make an impact in the games and get the crowd going so we had a home advantage.”
It’s been 22 years since terrorists seized four jets and aimed them at emblems of power and prestige: the September 11 attacks. The commemoration at the 9/11 Memorial Plaza in Lower Manhattan, now an annual memorial ritual, will begin with a citywide moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. .
Families of the nearly 3,000 people who died on that bright September morning will once again read the names of the dead, and other moments of silence will follow.
Flags on government buildings in New York State will fly at half-staff today Tonight, a tribute in light – 88 xenon lamps arranged in two squares – will once again rise to the sky, as the Twin Towers once did.
There are now 9/11 commemorations in at least 19 countries. Kinsale, a fishing village in Ireland, is home to a village honoring the New York City firefighters who died that day.
The commemorations come three days after the city announced that the remains of two more 9/11 victims had been identified through DNA testing — a man and a woman whose names were withheld at the request of their families, City Hall said. The city said it was raising the number identified by DNA by the city Office of Chief Medical Examiner to 1,649.
Expect a chance of thunderstorms in the evening, with highs in the low 80s. At night it will be mostly cloudy with temperatures dropping to the low 70s.
In effect until Saturday (Rosh Hashana).
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Hudson swimmer nears the end of his month-long journey
Lewis Pugh has swum with the fish, but not like that.
He has also had blow after blow with Barbara Woodward, the British ambassador to the United Nations, and with Marist College President Kevin Weinman and his wife, Beth Weinman.
Pugh is the British maritime lawyer turned endurance swimmer and environmentalist who is spending a month swimming along the Hudson River from the Adirondacks to New York City. He expects to end his trip Tuesday in Battery Park in Lower Manhattan.
Today’s route calls for starting in Hastings-on-Hudson, in Westchester County, and reaching the George Washington Bridge. He is joined by Yvette Tetteh, who swam an even longer river, the Volta, in Ghana in May to raise awareness about clothing waste dumped in waterways in Africa.
Tetteh told me last week that there were parallels between the Hudson’s polluted past and the Volta’s polluted present. She also wondered if she could keep up with Pugh, who told me on Saturday that the journey was “absolutely grueling, there’s no doubt about that.”
He said that to avoid the heat and make the most of the tides, he walked miles in the wee hours of the morning – when he realized he was surrounded by fish, particularly the Atlantic sturgeon which was also heading downstream .
Marist President Kevin Weinman said swimming in the Hudson is usually “something we tell our students not to do” for safety reasons. Only experienced swimmers participated, while the crew team followed in their boats.
Marist describes Weinman as an endurance athlete who has done half-Ironman triathlons, “but that was 10 years ago,” he told me. “It was literally muscle memory that got me through the day, not muscle memory.”