It might look imposing, but the ceiling of St. Patrick’s Cathedral is made of slate. A chambered area between the ceiling and roof houses an intricate weaving of timber and plaster. Firefighters in the area, Company 54 and Ladder Company 4, would check up on the “lumberyard,” as they called it, and new firefighters were given a tour.

Some marked their initial stops with a dust tag.

Over the years various firefighters have carved their names in the grime on the interior of the windows in the lumberyard.  Some of the FDNY graffiti features firefighters who died on September 11th. They will not be buffed:

When Msgr. Robert T. Ritchie assumed the rectorate of St. Patrick’s in 2006, he asked the building manager, William R. Kirwan, for a crypt-to-attic tour. Seeing the graffiti-filled windows for the first time, Monsignor Ritchie asked Mr. Kirwan: ‘Don’t we ever clean them? They’re so filthy.’

‘Father,’ Mr. Kirwan replied, ‘please don’t ever clean them.’

He pointed out four tags in particular: “Rags E-54 4-2-94″ (Firefighter Leonard Ragaglia), “Gill E-54 4-2-9…” (Firefighter Paul Gill), “Lynch L4 01″ (Firefighter Michael F. Lynch) and “Brennan E54 4-2-99″ (Firefighter Michael Emmett Brennan).

‘These guys died on 9/11,’ he said. ‘We’re keeping the windows the way they were to preserve the names.’ (Mr. Kirwan is himself a former firefighter.)

(Photo: David W. Dunlap/New York Times)