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09-09-05

NEVER FORGET....9-11-01...

     Sunday, September 11, 2005.  Four years.  Can you believe it? 
     I still remember the morning of Tuesday September 11, 2001.  I was working at 'the old' Station 3 at my department.  We were reviewing the foam system on the engine when the phone rang.  It was the Captain calling to ask if we were watching TV.  Of course we were not at that time and he said to turn it on.  When we did, we joined millions of Americans who watched the horrors of 9-11-01 unfold before our very eyes.  Glued to the TV, the three of us watched with tears in our eyes as the first tower fell, knowing there were hundreds of guys there trying to get people out and find a way to battle the fire.  Then the second tower.  Then the Pentagon.  And the plane in Pennsylvania. 
     What a day that was.  I remember thinking that this is probably what the beginning of World War III might look like.  I am not convinced that that may not play out over time yet.  We all agreed that the world would never be the same.  It certainly hasn't been and probably won't be.  Watching the TV images of the people that day jumping from the towers to a certain death rather than staying in the towers for what would have been an ultimate death any way.  How hard it must have been for those people to be above the damaged floors.  How could anyone make a choice to leap a thousand feet to a concrete death. I guess you never know what you would do until you are faced with that kind of death or death decision.
    Then there were the firefighters and other emergency workers that responded from all over New York City to what they must have known was going to be the worst incident of their careers...having no idea how right they were.  Entering those 110 story towers laden with heavy gear and tools, to climb narrow stairways, against the flow of frightened people heading down.  What were those FDNY guys thinking?  Do you think they knew they were going to die?  Did they think they were going to be able to get people out and put the fire out?  I bet they did.  Those guys know how to fight fires and I believe they must have believed they were going to find a way to win the battle somehow.
     Well, it didn't work out that way.  When all was said and done, they had saved thousands of innocent people who might have otherwise died that day.  In doing so however, 343 of the Bravest...called that for good reason...paid the ultimate price.  In an instant, many of them were literally vaporized along with glass, concrete and everything else.  A horrible thing to imagine. 
    The heroism of those guys was recognized by the general public that day, and for months that followed.  The famous photo of the three firefighters raising the colors above the wreckage brought out a wonderful display of Americanism and pride across our country, and even around the world.  We will NEVER FORGET!  UNITED WE STAND!  GOD BLESS AMERICA!  From a very bad thing came a lot of very good things... that's what makes America so great I guess.  Hope.  Pride.  Honor.  All that good stuff.
    We said we would never forget.  In reality however, we may not have forgotten but we have allowed time to heal us. That is good.  We have gotten back to our 'routines' and life goes on.  The WTC mess was cleaned up in a remarkable time.  Another example of good old American get the job done-ism.  Most of us have gone back to 'normal' as much as we can.  Just as those guys would have if they had lived that day.  That's just how life is.  You have to go forward.  We should do so without forgetting history however.  We really should take the time to remember and pay our respects.  They deserve that so much.
    A lot has changed since that day.  Unfortunately, the fire service has not really benefited in any real way.  FDNY actually lost fire houses.  Many departments struggle to keep junk apparatus going.  Many still work in fire houses that horses once lived in. Staffing of fire departments is minimal at best. Many have faced layoffs. Calls are up.  Pay isn't.  Homeland security...yeah, whatever.... All the same issues that existed before those 343 guys gave it all, still exists and perhaps in some ways are worse then they were before 9-11.  The emphasis on terrorism is certainly justified and it is still remarkable that our homeland has not been struck again by those bastards.  I guess that means our government is doing something right about that.  I hope. But it certainly isn't 'perfect' yet is it?
    Bottom line is this.  America is still the best country in the world.  We have a lifestyle and blessings that we take so much for granted.  Our worst disaster, the recent hurricane Katrina, turned our country on its heals, yet the mess down there is still better than what many people around the world consider normal.  We have much to be thankful for.  We can overcome disasters because we are good people. We are only human, and our leaders are too.  When faced with big challenges, sometimes we do good, sometimes we fall short. Patience is not one of our strong suits these days... perhaps its the 24/7 news or something. Then there is politics... not going there this time.
    One Sunday morning, our nation will 'celebrate' and hopefully remember what happened four years ago.  Our nation was attacked by a bunch of heartless killers who don't like anything about what America represents.  An unbelievable number of dedicated men in black died that day just doing their job. We said we would never forget.  We should honor that commitment.  Those guys represented everything that is good about us as a people and we should remember that.  Just as we must remember so many men that have given their lives in war throughout our history to defend the principles of Freedom and the American way of life. God bless them all.
    I don't know what it is about some of us that we must find fault with our own country the way we seem to.  Some of that is healthy perhaps.  Some of it is just a plain shame.  We didn't start what happened on 9-11.  But we certainly stood up as a nation and dealt with it. Not everyone believes we did the right thing.  Time will tell. Whatever the ultimate conclusion may be, the disaster of 9-11 was also a moment in our history that we can be so very proud of.  The way the FDNY and all the other agencies that faced the events of that day was absolutely amazing.  The leadership and direction that was exhibited that day helped everyone have confidence that we would make it through the darkness.  And we did.  Challenges are always out there and there are many yet to come.  September 11, 2001 is a day to remember for many reasons.  I hope we stop for a few moments Sunday to do so, before we move on to everything else we have to do.
    GOD BLESS THE USA.  NEVER FORGET.  UNITED WE SHOULD STAND.  FDNY 343.

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