Atheists Angry With ‘Seven in Heaven’ Sign Honoring 9/11 Firefighters


There’s a new street sign hanging on Richards Street in Red Hook that honors seven firefighters from Engine 202 and Ladder 101 who were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The sign says “Seven in Heaven Way,” which is causing some controversy, reports the Brooklyn Paper. After all, some people don’t believe in God, or heaven, and, of course, there’s that whole “separation of Church and state” thing. On the other side are the people saying that the firefighters are heroes and deserving of a “place like heaven,” and isn’t this just a nice thing to do, for the love of God?

And then there’s the point that Ken Bronstein of NYC Atheists makes:

“The problem with the sign is that you’re assuming that you know what they felt deep down,” said Bronstein, pointing out another potential flaw with the street sign. “You’re assuming they even believed in heaven.”

Still, practically speaking, all of the firemen’s names (Joseph Gullickson, Brian Cannizzaro, Salvatore Calabro, Thomas Kennedy, Patrick Byrne, Joseph Maffeo, and Terence McShane) would hardly fit on a sign. And there seems to be a historical precedent for the name. As Gothamist reports,

“The seven heroes have long been known as the ‘Seven in Heaven,’ ” [City Councilmember Sara González’s spokesman Mike] Schweinsburg tells us. “That’s something that we didn’t have any hand in, it is the way the community and their families chose to remember them. So if that is their desire then we are happy to continue to remember them in the way that their family and fellow firefighters prefer to call them.”

The Brooklyn Paper points out that other street dedications honor groups of fallen firefighters without getting religious — “Red Hook Happy Hookers Hook and Ladder,” for example. One commenter retorts, “I guess making a reference to hookers is preferable to mentioning heaven.”

And the end of the day, dear atheists, this may be sort of a no-win.

God’s country? Red Hook street gets heavenly name [Brooklyn Paper]