President Obama celebrated the "extraordinary sacrifice" of first responders on 9/11 as he joined firefighters for a home-cooked meal at a midtown firehouse on Thursday.
Crowds outside Engine 54 -- "The Pride of Midtown" -- chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A" as Obama arrived at the firehouse that lost 15 members in the Sept. 11 attacks.
"This is a symbolic site of the extraordinary sacrifice that was made on that terrible day almost 10 years ago," Obama said.
"And I just want to let you know that you're always going to have a president and an administration who's got your back the way you've gotten the backs of the people of New York over these last many years."
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano joined Obama at the firehouse meeting, which comes four days after the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Chief of Department Edward S. Kilduff said the president "put everybody at ease" with his casual demeanor.
"He was a wonderful guest," Kilduff said. "To see him take off his coat, sit down in the kitchen... and just relax and have a nice conversation was wonderful.”
"He loved the shrimp, he loved the veal. It was like hanging out with the rest of the guys in the firehouse," said firefighter Joe Ceravolo. "We just wanted to tell him, we thank him for what he did on Sunday, and all the troops... If it weren't for them, we'd still be chasing this guy.”
Obama said the response to the Sept. 11 attacks was "a high water mark of courage" for the FDNY, and thanked the firefighters for the sacrifices they make every day.
"It doesn't get as much attention," Obama said. "But every time you run into a burning building, every time that you are saving lives, you're making a difference."