Some days stand out clearly in our memories and September 11, 2001 is certainly one of them. Mike Benedetto, Middleton, Mass., remembers working at a hotel under construction that day and how one of the tv installers called him over to see images of the towers fall.
Shocked by what he saw, Mike’s next thought was for those in harm’s way. He was inspired to remember those who could not be helped and lost their lives. His approach was to highlight not just the loss of life but the bravery shown that day and he knew he could do that best by focusing on his own areas of strength, which include restoration and a love of Crosley’s cars.
He pulled his 1948 Crosely firetruck out of storage and, within a week, had started sand blasting. The body was heavily corroded and the engine was missing. The tiny firefighting apparatus was to spend the next year undergoing a complete transformation. Every nut and bolt was addressed. Rot was removed and new panels were shaped, welded, and smoothed before the red paint covering the exterior was replaced by a new livery of red at the lower half of the car and white above. The back was altered to include a new rumble seat so that an honored guest could ride in parades in full view of spectators. The glass was changed to tinted windows to help drivers operate the vehicle during those sunny parades but the original siren still sits on the hood, although it has been fully rechromed and repaired to work as well as the day it was first installed.
Mike studied the font and placement of lettering on New York’s fire apparatus so that he could properly honor those first responders who were on scene and continue to fight the effects of that day. On the doors, the twin towers stand in a night scene. The scrollwork and other hand painting is the result of his own talented hands.
“I go all over with this truck. People love seeing it. The car itself is so unique that it catches your eye,” Mike said. He regularly drives the vehicle, with its Sept 11 plates, and knows that any trip won’t be quick. When he comes out of a shop, there are admirers around it who want to ask questions or tell him they appreciate how that date is memorialized.
Mike is eager to bring the firetruck to services on and around the anniversary of the tragedy and will never say no to first responders, many of whom he calls friends.
The firetruck was originally owned by a man who would hook it to a tagalong trailer and drive with his wife on an annual pilgrimage to Canada, where she would enjoy an event as a former Olympic skater.
One of the modifications Mike made was to install dual wheels at the back and add dual chrome exhaust pipes. “The wheels give it better stability.” Diamond plate surrounds the rear and lights that will strobe during parades. A separate battery provides power to the accessories. A friend helped Mike fit the newly upholstered seats, door panels, and headliner.
“There are people who thank me and tell me their stories. Some lost a loved one or maybe they describe their experience that day. This means something not just to me be a lot of other people.”
He’s also happy for the opportunity to educate people who don’t know what a Crosley is. “I get a lot of trophies because of how unique this car is. It impresses judges.”
Now that the work of restoration is well behind him, Mike’s goal is to keep the car going and sharing its message of remembrance. “Doing this made me feel great. It’s a tribute and I’m glad to be able to do it. It took a lot of time and effort but it was worth it.”
He asked Ted to perform the service on this beloved firetruck. “I know trucks but Ted knows Crosley,” he explained.
Wiping his hands after changing the oil and finishing an inspection, Ted said, “This was an honor to do.”