Hobart Rhinehart took a moment Saturday to publicly remember the fallen firefighters at the World Trade Center, not as heroes, though they were, but as fathers.
And that made him pause, his head bowed and his voice quivering.
"They had, between them, 1,000 children," he said, "and to imagine all those children spending the rest of their lives without their fathers . . . "
Rhinehart, president of the Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties Central Labor Council, also spoke of the firefighters as lost brothers and sisters in the labor movement.
He joined more than 200 others for a memorial service at Chestnut Ridge Park honoring union members who lost their lives or were injured in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
They range from the firefighters and police officers who rushed to the scene to the airline pilots who died aboard the planes. They include restaurant workers, public employees and operating engineers.
Daniel Boody, president of the Buffalo Building and Construction Trades Council, read from a list of more than 20 unions that lost members in the attacks, a list that ranges from the big and powerful Teamsters to the much smaller Union of Elevator Constructors.
Boody took special note of the ironworkers who, even now, remain at ground zero, cutting through the steel girders that were once the twin towers in lower Manhattan.
"It's difficult to talk about," he said, but "this attack on the United States has become an attack on organized labor."
The service, sponsored by the newly created Western New York Labor Federation, a coalition of labor groups in six counties, featured a Scottish bagpipe, a color guard and music by unionized musicians of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.