Atheists are up in arms over part of a street in Red Hook, Brooklyn, that was renamed earlier this month to commemorate fallen 9/11 firefighters. The street — now called “Seven in Heaven Way” — references seven firefighters who lost their lives as part of Engine 202, Ladder 101 and Battalion 32. The Brooklyn Paper writes:
The “Seven in Heaven” firemen — Joseph Gullickson, Brian Cannizzaro, Salvatore Calabro, Thomas Kennedy, Patrick Byrne, Joseph Maffeo, and Terence McShane — were among the first firefighters called to the towers, making it there before the second airplane hit.
“They gave up everything to help — and that’s what sets them apart,” said Ralph Gullickson, Joseph’s brother.
According to some atheists, though, the street’s reference to “heaven” is completely unacceptable and inappropriate. Gothamist has more:
“It’s improper for the city to endorse the view that heaven exists,” said David Silverman of American Atheists…“It links Christianity and heroism.” …
City Councilmember Sara González shepherded the street sign change through the city council, and we asked her spokesman Mike Schweinsburg if it’s appropriate to use city resources for a sign with religious overtones. “The seven heroes have long been known as the ‘Seven in Heaven,’ ” 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 community seems perfectly content with the street sign, which is why the opposition is being met with surprise. These fallen heroes have long been referred to, as González notes, as “Seven in Heaven,” so it was only natural that the commemorative name would be applied to them in that way.
Do you view the street sign as problematic?