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"The Guys" remembers 9/11 firefighters
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The Fargo downtown fire station will host the play, "The Guys." There's no stage for the production. The play is performed in the space where the fire trucks are usually parked. (MPR Photo/Bob Reha)
One of the most enduring images of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is of the firefighters who rushed to the World Trade Center. In Fargo, a local theater group is teaming with the Fargo fire department to produce "The Guys." The play remembers the heroes of 9/11 as regular people.

Fargo, N.D. — A fire station is a busy place. Crew members are always checking their gear, testing their gear, or packing it on the trucks. The crews are ready to roll at a moment's notice.

Fargo-based Theatre B thought this would be a natural place to stage Anne Nelson's drama "The Guys." Actor Scott Horvik plays Nick, a firefighter who can't find the words for the eulogies of his friends.

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Image Scott Horvik

"This is a real playwright, who sat down with a real fire chief and wrote real eulogies, and made this piece," says Horvik.

Horvik says Theatre B wanted to do "The Guys" as a way to honor and remember the people who died trying to rescue victims of the terrorist attacks. Horvik says doing the piece at a fire station is nerve-wracking.

"When I was in high school and you had to play Taps for the VFW. It's the same thing," says Horvik. "You want to make sure you do it right for the memory of the guys in the play that they talk about."

There's no stage for Theatre B's production of "The Guys." The play is performed in the space where the fire trucks are usually parked. The audience will sit on folding chairs and the actors will use just a handful of props.

Carolyn Wintersteen plays Joan in the play, a writer who helps Nick write the eulogies. She says performing in a fire station presents special problems.

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Image Fire trucks

"If they get a wastebasket fire while this is going on, I think it'll be really exciting to see a whole bunch of guys coming down the pole while we pause -- and then resume as soon as they go out the door," says Wintersteen. "That's part of its charm, part of the charm of doing it in the firehouse, is the potential to be reminded of how immediately these guys respond to any kind of need."

Wintersteen and Horvik are the only actors in the production. They play Nick and Joan, the firefighter and writer struggling to put a human face on the dead crew members. Nick can't find a way to talk about people he knew, people he calls "the guys."

"I mean this hero stuff, like they were some guys in a movie!" Nick says. "Bill wasn't like that, he was just some ordinary guy, a schmo. If Bill walked into a room nobody would even notice. You can't say that in an eulogy."

"Hey, it's OK. Don't worry!" Joan responds. "We'll do this. People who are ordinary in an extraordinary situation, that's what this is about."

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Image Bruce Hoover

Officials with the Fargo fire department were skeptical when first approached about using a fire station to stage a play. Fire Chief Bruce Hoover says after reading the play, he was convinced it was a powerful way to bring perspective to the story of the firefighters of Sept. 11.

"They're simply decent people who made the ultimate sacrifice. They're not action heros, but just decent people," says Hoover.

Chief Hoover stresses if firefighters do get a call during the production of the play, it will not hinder the department's response time. Theatre B opens its second season with Anne Nelson's "The Guys," Sept. 9, at the downtown fire station in Fargo. There's a show on Sept. 10, and two shows on Saturday, Sept. 11.

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