The Freedom Engine

East Tennessee Remembers 9/11
September 1, 2022 to September 30, 2022
East Tennessee Streetscape

Following the events of September 11, 2001, East Tennesseans contributed more than $940,000 to purchase and equip a 95-foot tower ladder truck for Harlem-based Ladder Company 14, helping the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) replenish the largest vehicles in the city's firefighting fleet. The so-called “Freedom Engine,” built by Seagrave Fire Apparatus of Clintonville, Wisconsin, went into service during March 2002 and was dedicated on September 11th of that year.

Besides the Knoxville Fire Department and Rural/Metro, the Freedom Engine campaign was sponsored by the News Sentinel, the City of Knoxville, WBIR-TV 10, First Tennessee Bank, and Journal Broadcasting. The original goal was to raise some $300,000-$400,000 for a new pumper truck, but funds collected were significant enough to purchase a top-of-the-line tower ladder vehicle. Diana Morgan, then community and educational services manager for the News Sentinel, summed up regional sentiment by stating, "Let New York City remember that when the Freedom Engine rolls, it rolls with the heart and spirit of East Tennesseans all the way."

The Freedom Engine was stationed at the firehouse known as “Heaven in Harlem” (which lost three firefighters on 9/11) and provided protection to the community that includes Spanish Harlem and such landmarks of African American history and culture as the Apollo Theatre and Sylvia's soul food restaurants. Because New York City conditions are harsh on vehicles, FDNY typically retires theirs from regular service after about 10 years. This truck, per tradition, went into reserve status in 2013 and will be made available to stations as needed.