For the past 7 months, my life has been a living hell.
I haven’t recovered from Jack’s death and don’t think I ever will.
Since that night, my life has taken a downhill turn. It seems as though nothing has gone “right”. Every time I try to pick myself up, something (or someone) pushes me right back down.
At times, I’m not even sure why I keep trying to get back up but I do. I told someone just this morning that it’s like swimming in peanut butter or trying to keep your head above water while tied to a cinder block. Everyday seems to be a struggle but I’m also tougher than I look …lol.
With all that said, I also know that I have MANY blessings in my life as well… some more obvious than others.
Without a doubt, one of those blessings has been our Fire Department Chaplain, Reverend Sandy Webb (aka Father Sandy or Father Webb).
I met Father Sandy for the first time while on duty back on St. Patrick’s Day 2011. I’m on duty again tonight and seen him for what may be the last time (in this world anyway).
In addition to our Department, Father Sandy serves the St. John’s Episcopal Church here in Roanoke. He announced recently that he will be moving on to Memphis, Tn. to a new church and family. Tonight was his last here in town.
They held a reception for him following the 5pm service. Many of us from the Department attended.
We even had a surprise special gift for him …. a custom painted helmet.
Battalion Chief Teddy Adkins had called a few weeks back to inform me that Father Sandy was leaving. He also explained that he wanted to do something “special” for him.
We discussed having a “custom” helmet painted for him and knew it would make the perfect gift.
Now all we had to do was arrange the details… Captain Bedwell from Station #1 B had the front shield made and I apologize for not knowing where from.
I told John I was looking for a composite helmet that I could afford. I explained to him that we were going to custom paint it and present it to Father Sandy before he left. John jumped on board right away.
Within 2 days, a brand new Morning Pride Ben 2 fire helmet was sitting on my front steps! More than that …. there was NO CHARGE! John wanted to donate the helmet due to it’s purpose.
That’s the kind of person John is and the type of Company Second Alarm Fire Equipment is… FIRST CLASS! I can’t thank him enough. If you guys haven’t heard of or used John and Second Alarm Fire Equipment, YOU NEED TO.
I say “slain” bacause Father Judge was murdered on 9/11 in the the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Father Judge was somewhat of a “connection” for me and Father Sandy. As I mentioned above, I met Father Sandy for the first time on St. Patrick’s day in a firehouse.
On St. Patrick’s Day, I always think of the FDNY and my visits to attend the parade. With that on my mind and a Priest in the house, my thoughts naturally turned to Father Judge.
I told Father Sandy the story and he knew exactly who I was talking about. I think he may have even met him before. From that moment on, Father Sandy and I had a bond that only strengthened and grew from that point.
I can’t explain the bond we shared but I do know that nobody expected it.
Me and a Priest …. it actually made some of our members nervous. They kept a distance whenever the two of us were together for fear of lightning strikes … LOL.
All kidding aside, I think a lot of Father Webb. Back on February 4, 2012 I even asked him to Bless my new Phenix Helmet before I placed it into service.
It’s a tradition I’ve kept with all my helmets but this time was different. I knelt before him in my office as he placed a hand on my forehead and held the helmet in his other. I was honored to learn that it was the first time he had been asked to perform such as task. I will never forget it. Read the related previous posts in the links below …
Beyond everything “on the job”, I called Father Sandy the night Jackson died. He came straight over to the house.
I hope he knows what a comfort that was for me and my family. To this day, he remains one of very few that I’ve been able to “open up” to. We never got to finish our last conversation that night but I know that one day … somewhere … we will.
I’ve asked him to other member’s homes as well. In times of need, facing major surgeries etc. Again, he was right there beside us.
I hope he knows what a difference he’s made in so many of our lives. I hope he is able to do the same in Memphis …. I’m sure that he will.
Words aren’t enough but THANKS Father Sandy. THANKS FOR EVERYTHING. May PEACE be with you along your continued journey … we will miss ya!
It’s been almost 12 years now since 2,750 people, including 343 of our Brothers; were murdered at the World Trade Center during the September 11, 2001 attacks.
That in itself is hard for me to believe because it’s still so fresh in my mind.
It’s also hard for me to believe that they are still identifying remains but this past Friday, they did just that.
The announcement was made that the remains of Lieutenant Jeffrey Patrick Walz were positively identified.
Lt. Walz was 37 years old at the time of his death and was promoted promoted posthumously. He was assigned to Ladder Company 9 in downtown Manhattan. He had a wife, Rani; and a 3 year old son Bradley.
The Medical Examiner’s office has been retesting remains found from the original recovery efforts which was prior to May 2002.
I said it’s “good news” but I guess for the family, it’s bitter sweet.
His sister, Karen Ciaccio says there hasn’t been a day in the nearly 4,000 that have passed since his death that they haven’t thought about Jeffrey. I’m sure this latest development will cause all the emotion and memories to resurface but also hope it brings some sort of peace to their lives.
His Brother, Raymond; said “We’re just very relieved, in some respects, to be finally bringing him home to where he grew up and to put him to rest there,” (quote from NBC New York.com).
I hope they are able to find peace through this. I say “peace” vs. “closure” because I don’t think there’s ever “closure” when you loose a loved one. I also hope the Medical Examiner’s office is able to identify even more victims through their retesting process.
Finding Lt. Walz was the “good news” from my title. The pain and disgust comes from Bravo’s reality television show “The Princesses: Long Island”.
Last week, Chief Goldfeder alerted us of the disgraceful event that took place at a 9/11 Memorial in Great Neck, Long Island.
Cast from the show was doing some sort of photo shoot in front of the memorial. There were 6 FDNY members from Great Neck who were murdered in the September 11th attacks. Their names are memorialized on the wall behind the life sized statue of Jonathan Ielpi whom the park is named after … Jon’s Park”.
The cast was undressing and changing cloths in front of the memorial and even enacted giving Jonathan a drink of beer.
IT WAS NOT ONLY DISTASTEFUL, IT WAS ALSO VERY DISRESPECTFUL!
Family interviews, more video and links HERE and HERE
This story hits close to home for me because I’ve met Jonathan’s Father and Brother (Lee and Brendan). I’ve written about them several times here on Ironfiremen.com.
Back in October of 2011 I met Jonathan’s father, Lee Ielpi; and it remains one of the most memorial days of my life.
I was in New York with Rhett and Zach Green (of MN8 FoxFire). Chief Goldfeder arranged a tour of the 9/11 Tribute Center for us. It’s located next to Ground Zero.
“9/11 Tribute Center offers visitors to the World Trade Center site a place where they can connect with people from the September 11th community. Through walking tours, exhibits and programs, the 9/11 Tribute Center offers “Person to Person History,” linking visitors who want to understand and appreciate these historic events with those who experienced them.”
Lee is a retired Captain from FDNY’s Rescue 2 and is the Founder of the 9/11 Tribute Center. Lee gave us the tour personally!
Chief Goldfeder called in a huge favor on this one as his assistants made it very clear that Lee had a VERY busy schedule and would only be able to spend about 10 minutes with us.
Within minutes of our introduction, we both knew we’d be spending more than 10 minutes together. I still can’t describe it but remember it as if it was just this morning. When we shook hands and made eye contact, there was an instant bond.
Like a father would a son, Lee NEVER took his hand off me for more than 30 seconds until the end of our visit. Whether it was his hand on my shoulder or back, holding my elbow etc, he hardly ever broke contact. It was VERY personal for me.
Actually, he said that he tries to avoid that display most days but wanted to share it with us.
He wanted me to see it and for him to be the one to show me. I cry still today thinking about what we shared there that morning.
Jonathan was assigned to Squad 288 out of Queens. They lost 19 members that day, more than any other company.
Lee searched “the pile” every day with who he called the “eight dads”. They found Jonathan’s body 3 months from the day of the attacks.
I don’t think Lee has left the pile yet. I don’t think he ever will.
I can’t say enough about either of these two GREAT men. Their poise and strength is amazing to me, especially now that I know the pain of having lost a brother myself.
These two men, Jonathan, the remaining 342 and all of their survivors deserve our RESPECT … not the disrespect shown by Bravo and the Princesses:Long Island cast.
PLEASE, take the time to use the links I’ve provided so you’ll understand their story. Then, contact Bravo and let them know how upset you are with the actions of and disrespect shown by the cast of Princesses: Long Island.
In another previous post (“Melt Down”) , I told ya about the “stages of grief” and how grief is as individual as the person suffering through it. We don’t necessarily go through the stages in order and by no means in the same way.
I’m currently working through the “depression” stage (and, I believe; suffering through PTSD).
I was expecting it but have never fully understood exactly what “depression” was. I’m learning the hard way.
My thoughts continue to wonder with every waking moment and it’s difficult for me to focus.
I still can’t eat. I just don’t have an appetite … I’m not hungry. When I try to force myself to eat, I throw it back up so I figure why bother.
I’m sleeping some at night now but I’m not REALLY “sleeping”. I’m tired all the time and can’t motivate myself to get out and do anything. I try to make myself go “somewhere” or do “something” but I don’t. I know I need to.
I haven’t even been able to write (evident in my recent lack of postings and absence from Face Book).
I’m not getting along well with others … I just want to be alone.
All these things seem so petty and easy to fix but they’re not.
That’s the hardest part for me. I know what’s happening and what I need to do ….. I just can’t muster the energy or motivation to get it done.
I have to start climbing my way out of this hole … I thought I have been but it doesn’t feel like I’m making much progress. I can’t stay here (like this) forever.
One of the folks I’ve been seeing offered a prescription for anti-depressants. It’s not for me. There’s a small part of me that almost took her up on it just so I could learn for myself (and share with you folks) if they (the pills) “really” work or not. Unfortunately, I’m not the “pill” taking kind ( I hardly even even take an aspirin) so I won’t be able to tell you “first hand” about anti-depressants. I can tell you that depression is REAL . It’s an illness that can be crippling.
I see a lot of it in the firehouse for one reason or another. Not just in situations like mine (the loss of a loved one) but also over financial issues, marital problems etc. If you want to learn more about depression and take your “Depression IQ quiz”, take a minute and CLICK HERE .
The best thing for me has been talking about it. Getting “it” out of my head and off my chest. I’ve wrote about them a lot here lately but once again, I want to share with you some folks who you CAN TALK TO. People who understand and that do MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
These folks are not just for you or me either. They are there for our Brothers and Sisters as well and it’s up to us to let them know that help is available. PAY ATTENTION … look around you. If someone in your company, your Battalion, Department or whatever is needing help, point them in this direction. You know … firefighter “so and so” whos wife just left him. Ol “what’s his name” from Engine whatever who just took a 3rd mortgage out because he lost his 2nd job. That S.O.B on the Ladder who we all know has been drinking too much …. all these Brothers have someone to turn to. Let them know before it’s too late. Here are the links ….
I had a bad day yesterday. Like most everyday, there’s always something that will remind me of Jackson.
I pulled a tour Saturday (we work 24hr shifts) and when I got home yesterday morning, the Buckaroo was waiting for me. It was 8am , he missed his “Paw-Paw” and wanted to play.
He got his motorcycle toy out. It’s like the old Evil Knievel wind up toy. If you’re a boy and anywhere near my age (44), I’d bet you had one.
I showed him how to use some books / magazines to make a ramp so we could make some jumps down the hallway. It was just how me and Jack did it when we were kids.
I could see us like it was just yesterday. Then the thought hit me (as it always does in situations like this) …. I wanted to call Jackson and tell him what we were doing. He would LOVE it! Knowing that me and the Buckaroo were doing exactly what he and I did as kids. I know he’d remember our ramps … our jumps…. fighting over who went next…. he’d understand and know EXACTLY what we were feeling / doing. He’d have that unforgettable smile on his face just thinking about it.
I’ll never get to make “those” calls again … not to Jackson and it’s killing me. This grief … the depression…. it keeps knocking me down but I won’t let it keep me here.
Like I said in the beginning of this post, I have to start climbing my way out of this hole.
“CLIMBING”…… Seems I wrote about that one time …. back in July of 2011 actually in a post titled “We are all Climbing” (Take the time to hit the link and read that post … I think you’ll find it worthwhile). Stairs, ladders or whatever obstacle, it seems we all are indeed “climbing”.
Me? I’m gonna find my way out …. I’m gonna find that “new normal” because I’m going to keep climbing …. it’s all I know to do.
I’m gonna start by getting out of town again. I’m going to head up north and spend a little time in NYC and out on Long Island.
I’m going to attend the Long Island Fire, Rescue and EMS Mega Show on Feb. 23rd / 24th. I’ll be working the booth with my MN8 FoxFire family but I’ll also be doing what I love best … meeting, spending time with and talking to all the Brothers and Sisters in attendance. I think it will be just what I need to get “moving” again …. to “re-engage” and get “back in the game”.
I’ll get ya more details in the next day or so …. until then, thanks again for all the support. Thanks too for allowing me to share all of this with you …. I LOVE YA ALL!
Face Book is loaded with the messages today. “Never Forget” … “I remember” … “Where were you” etc. Every post I see has something to do with the events that took place 11 years ago today.
Although these statements have merit, I’m not sure they carry the necessary weight.
“Never forget”…. HOW COULD YOU? How could any adult who was alive that day forget what happened? How COULD you forget the images? People jumping, citizens pouring out while firefighters rushed in. The impact of that 2nd plane. The towers crumbling like piles of ash.
“I remember” … I HOPE SO! Citizen or public servant, I hope you remember the sacrifices made. I hope you remember how vulnerable we were and still are as a nation and who stepped up to the “front lines” as we were under attack. I hope you remember what they did to us that day …. what they took from us…. and those they murdered.
“Where were you?” … GLUED TO THE TV … that’s where you were unless you were on scene or responding in to either of the 3 sites. Where ever you were, hopefully; your mind, thoughts and spirits were in Pa, Washington DC and NYC. I know mine were. I’ll tell ya where you were …. In the same place we all were. In a state of disbelief and confusion. Scared, mad and searching for answers. I know EXACTLY where you were because like so many others, I was standing there beside you!
I’m not sure how to express or say what I’m feeling tonight. I’ve been thinking about it all day. I don’t want the words to become “catch phrases”. Something “cool” to say but without meaning or purpose. “Never Forget” should be way more than a slogan on a tee shirt. Saying it is NOT enough. Remembering is not either. Not just once a year when September 11th rolls around.
I met Lee Ielpi almost a year ago now, back in October of 2011. He is the strongest man I’ve ever met. He’s retired from FDNY’s elite Rescue 2 in Brooklyn. His youngest son (Brendan) is on the job today and currently assigned to that same company. His eldest son, Jonathan; was murdered in the attacks of 9/11. Jonathan was also on the job and assigned to Squad 288 in Queens. They lost 19 members that day … more than any other unit in the FDNY.
Lee now runs the 9/11 Tribute Center. “9/11 Tribute Center offers visitors to the World Trade Center site a place where they can connect with people from the September 11th community. Through walking tours, exhibits and programs, the 9/11 Tribute Center offers “Person to Person History,” linking visitors who want to understand and appreciate these historic events with those who experienced them”.
Lee gave Zach Green and I a personal tour of the center. I posted about it HERE . In that post, speaking of Lee and ground zero; I said “he hasn’t left yet”. I feel the same way about me and the Center. A part of me remains there.
You see, one of the exhibits is a set of turn out gear. Not just any gear mind you … Jonathan Ielpi’s gear. It’s like he’s standing right there and Lee has to walk by it every day. What do you think “never forget” means to this man? His son’s turnout coat and helmet! He walks by it everyday to share the story with us. To educate us and the generations to come.
THAT Brothers and Sisters is the meaning of NEVER FORGETTING. I guarantee you that Lee Ielpi REMEMBERS and he knows EXACTLY where he was not just that day but for months following … he was on that pile searching for his son!
Not as Lee does, but I too remember EVERY DAY. I have mentioned (and shown you) here on the site how I have photos of the fallen hanging near my bed. I see their faces every morning as I wake up.
I carry photos from our 9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs in my turnout gear. They are part of my daily / morning check and remind me of the sacrifices made by others as well as of the one I may one day be called to make.
I’ve made the climbs. I even climbed in the shadows of the new Freedom Tower with Rhett and the founding members of the Stair Climb Committee.
I assist the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation anyway I can.
I support and work on behalf of the National Firefighters Endowment.
I leave my family to travel and deliver motivation speeches. I teach classes, promote life saving technology and try to do my part in making a positive impact on the fire service.
It’s more than a t-shirt, helmet sticker or catchy slogan for me. I hope I don’t need any of that crap. I’d rather you know that I remember EVERYDAY and would hope you can tell that by my actions and not by the slogan on some shirt or hat that I’m wearing.
I’ve got a lot of catching up to do and I’m not going to get it done in tonight’s post…. I hope this one will be short and sweet and I’ll get more up tomorrow.
The title of this one has a few meanings to it. First off, I went to an Alan Jackson concert this past Friday night. IT WAS AWESOME!
I’m not sure who to thank … my Department, our Civic Center, the concert promoters or Alan Jackson himself because our tickets were free. Somehow or another, both the Fire and Police Departments received several free tickets to disperse to their members.
Our Department simply paged out that they had em and to call if you wanted a set. I made the call without thinking. Had I have thought about it, I most likely wouldn’t have called. It’s the beginning of hay season and a very busy time on the farm. I’m not a fan of big crowds or loud music …. I don’t “get out” and it’s most often by choice.
After I got the tickets, I began regretting it. Too much going on, having to end my day early … take a bath etc. In my mind, the only “plus side” to going was that my wife (Donna) would get a much needed and deserved night out.
When we walked inside the civic center, I was shocked … it wasn’t a good turnout for the show. I figured Alan Jackson would see all the empty seats, play a few tunes and haul butt. HE DIDN’T.
We had GREAT seats and the stage had a large TV screen on both sides. The camera crews did a fantastic job of getting the “right” shots and provided plenty of close ups of Alan. It was evident in his facial expressions that he was playing for / from his passion for his job (it was obviously not because of a “packed house”) He played as if he was standing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry or Madison Square Gardens. The music was not too loud or over bearing nor was there an excess of lights, explosions etc…. it was Alan Jackson singing.
I know most of his songs but have never seen him perform live. I was hoping he would play “Where were you when the world stopped turning” and he did. I stood through the entire song. Donna kept pulling at my shirt, wanting me to sit but I would have none of it.
I stood to honor and thank him for honoring us.
He even had the well know picture of the firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero on the screen as he sang.
If you even have the chance to see an Alan Jackson concert … GO!
I’ll throw in the video for anyone who has never heard the song ( and I doubt there’s anyone who hasn’t ) but there’s NOTHING like hearing it live and in person ….
Ok, the 2nd meaning of the title for this posts is due to where I am tonight and more than that … WHO I’m with. Rhett and I are on yet another “road trip” but, this time; Dave Statter is with us (or we’re with him…lol).
Yep … Rhett and Dave are traveling together and I’m along to chaperon.
Apparently, I’m good at what I do because it’s been nothing but a “love fest” thus far … it’s almost sickening…LOL
We are in Newark, Ohio where we (Rhett and Dave ) have teamed up to present on social media in/for the Fire Service.
I’ll update ya more in tomorrow’s post on how we’re getting along. The two “stars” of the show are currently down in the hot tub working out their pre-show jitters so I should have plenty to report.
For a little local “catch up”, the Brothers and Sisters from our South Side caught a little work last day ( Sunday ) and a citizen caught it on video. Rhett has the complete set of all 3 videos over on Va Fire News HERE . I’ll include “part 1″ which includes the knock down …
I’ll check back tomorrow…. until then, stay SAFE and in House!
Because my puter has been down … I missed two very important days last week. Two days of celebration. One marking the death of a terrorist, the other marking the birth of a Fire Service Media Icon.
First, we reached the 1 year anniversary of the Death of Osama Bin Laden!
Like the headline from the New York Daily News said… I hope he rots in hell!
SPECIAL THANKS to Seal Team 6 for a job well done. I only wish that his death could have been much slower and painful. The thousands that he murdered and the many more he left behind suffered. He should have too.
I could and would have killed him with a cotton ball. As long as that would have taken, it still may have been too quick. The good thing for him is that I’ll never get that chance. I do take comfort in knowing that he seen his killer. I’m sure he seen the seal coming towards him and knew he was American. I can only hope that he got the shot off before Bin Laden closed his coward eyes. I smile thinking that the last thing this POS piece of shit seen was the muzzle flash of an American weapon. I hope his mind was consumed with fear and that the impact was painful.
I celebrate his death and the victory of a battle. I say “battle” because the war is far from over. There is a lot of work left to do yet. I say kill em all … including those awaiting trial still today. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his Al Qaeda cohorts have been making a mockery of Democracy all week. They have been smiling, reading books, ignoring questions and even gave a “thumbs up” during their hearing.
They never should have made it to trial in the first place and I hope that they too ROT IN HELL. Is it personal for me … YES. I knew several of the men they murdered and I will not forget the sacrifice they made.
One of the ways I remember and honor those lost is by participating in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs. Rhett and I have posted about our climbs many times. We’ve completed 5. If you haven’t participated in a climb yet …YOU SHOULD.
Can’t climb? No problem. Register and another Brother or Sister will carry the name and memory of one of our fallen for you. Register, show up and support those who are climbing…. you WILL make a difference.
Ok .. enough with that rant for now … let me move on to the 2nd day of celebration I missed . A BIRTHDAY !!! Not just any Birthday either … Statter911.com turned 5 years old this week! ( that’s just 1 year older than the Buckaroo …and Statter calls Rhett “young”…LOL)
CONGRATULATIONS Dave! Congratulations and WELL DONE!
Raise a glass Brothers and Sisters … he’s earned it.
Trust me … keeping these sites up and going is not an easy task and Dave Statter sets the standard.
I say that with all due respect and seriousness. For Dave to have been able to keep it up this long is unbelievable ( just ask Hilary …LMAO) All kidding aside, 5 years at the top is one hell of an achievement.
Despite what Rhett says, Dave Statter IS the King of Blogs!
Dave, Rhett and I have had a BLAST over the last few years and I’m honored to call him a friend.
We always give each other (the three of us) a hard time on our sites and it’s all in “good fun”. You’d be shocked at how many people ask me if the “feud” is actually real or not…LMAO
OF COURSE IT IS !!!! Rhett and Dave HATE each other… I’m the one caught in the middle!
We’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over the Country together and Dave has impacted members (good and bad) from coast to coast through his writings / reporting.
That said, his greatest impact on me has been a little closer to home.
Forget the trips. The dinners, ball games etc. Dave (and his family) have opened their home to me. To me, Rhett, my step mother and Dad actually. When Dave learned that we (Rhett, Dad and I) were going to climb in the Greenbelt 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb on the 10 yr Anniversary of the attacks, he wouldn’t hear of us staying in a hotel….WOULDN’T HEAR IT!
He opened his home and the 4 of us stayed at the 5 star “Hotel Statter”. It was a very generous offer and a true act of Brotherhood.
Dave has also impacted me through his work with the NFFF (National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation) . He is the reason I attended my first Memorial Weekend back in 2010 and the reason I wont miss another.
Become involved with the NFFF and attend the Memorial Weekend … it WILL change you!
So, congratulations on 5 years once again Dave!
Thanks for the guidance, support and friendship.
Most of all, thanks for the child support checks (you’re late for last months payment by the way) over the years. Im sorry about the “deadbeat dad” lawsuit but, at the time; I felt like my hands were tied.
Hello to Hillary and Sam … keep up the GREAT work … see ya in Ohio!
We get to “The Rock” ( Randall’s Island .. the FDNY Training center ) and who do we bump into ???
Our old friend and Brother Firefighter James Sorokac!
Jimmy gave us one hell of a tour back in December 2011 when we were there with the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation. We “hit it off” right from the start … it’s easy to tell that Jimmy is a fireman’s fireman.
I could talk for days about all the facilities at “The Rock” and Jimmy knew every one of em inside and out. The site is nothing short of amazing. They have an entire 3 story New York City Block built inside a massive structure … it’s 3 story buildings, built INSIDE another building to allow their members to train out of the weather! Flashover simulators, a subway mock up, multiple burn buildings, roof simulators, confined space, trench, passenger vehicle and even a bus fire simulator. You name it, they train on it and it can be found at “The Rock”.
Seeing how we’ve already had the tour, this time; Jimmy just told us a few stories and OHHH.. what stories this Brother can tell!
He was actually pretty excited about one in particular. You see, Jimmy services on their Ceremonial Unit. Actually, he’s their Senior member! Click HERE to learn more about the FDNY Ceremonial Unit ! Back at the 10th Anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Jimmy had the honor of ringing the bell. A photographer captured and unbelievable shot of James, at attention, hand on the bell, a tear on his cheek and the American flag in the foreground. I can’t describe the emotion I felt seeing the photo … or the emotion it captured.
Roberta Lerch, wife of Honorary Chief of Department Jack Lerch; created a painting from the photograph and presented it to the Ceremonial Unit. They in turn, presented it to the Commissioner and Chief of Department who then deemed it remain on display at the Training center.
That’s the picture hanging above Jimmy’s head (in the photo to the left).
They even had a nice write up and picture in WNYF (With New York Firefighters) 4th/2011.
He was VERY proud and should be ! Rhett and I have also heard rumors of that picture becoming a book cover very soon … VERY COOL !
Thanks again to Jimmy for spending a little time with us out at “The Rock”. Thanks also for the great stories and for caring enough to share them with us … nobody tells em like you do Brother!
So, we got to visit with the Chief of Training as well. Soon, we’d find ourselves in the Captain’s office. Usually, being in the Captain’s office isn’t a good thing but this time … IT WAS AWESOME!
Beside every good Captain is a GREAT Lieutenant and we had the honor of meeting Lt. Ed Galiani as well.
Lt. Galiani has been wearing a MN8-FoxFire Helmet Band for a little while now. Can you see it?? Yea … it’s on there just burnt, blackened and smoked up a bit…. just a little bit.
We always get questions as to how the Helmet Bands hold up … this should leave no doubt in your mind.
Lt. Galiani did say he was a little concerned that it didn’t glow anymore but was very pleased that it hadn’t burned apart. It hadn’t even cracked up like the old inner tubes.
Well, Zach took the band off and headed over to the sink.
After a little soap and water, she began to clean up nicely… the Lt was impressed.
He just wasn’t aware that you can clean the Bands. So, for all of you out there wearing them ..YES …wash em. Soap and water will do well if washed regularly. If you’ve put em through the ringer as Lt Galiani has .. use something a little stronger .
We took this Band and presented Lt Galiani with a brand new one. Zach wanted to take this one back to the home office so he can show those who doubt just how well they hold up. This band has seen hundreds of fires and who knows how many heat cycles! FIREFIGHTER TESTED BABY!!
So, we left The Rock, and headed to Ground Zero. Of course we dropped in to visit our friends at Ten House and then grabbed a bite to eat. It had been a busy 2 days and we were BEAT so we headed back to the hotel.
There, we received a call. One of our loyal fans / followers lived not too far away and wanted to come meet us.
Little did we know that Christine Sarracino would have to sneek out of the house to do so…. LOL (just kidding).
Christine fought late buses and trains to finally meet us.
We headed down to a local bar for a few beers and stories. She was very fun to hang out with.
She even made a special gift for each of us. I had mentioned in an earlier post that we were thinking of having a patch designed that Incorporated both Ironfiremen.com and the FireCritic logo. She designed one for us to consider, printed it out, framed it and added a special note with each! It was a GREAT gift!
The next morning, we headed South in Jersey to Fire Hooks Unlimited!
I carry a 6 foot “New York Hook” on every fire. It gives me reach and allows for plenty of leverage. I LOVE IT and these are the folks who make em!
Not only that, the owner; Bob Ferrell is a Retired FDNY Captain (who Retired as an “Acting” Battalion). Captain Ferrell is one of the most famous FDNY Captains and I call tell ya without a doubt … he’s a CAT BIRD!
You can read about some of his exploits in books such as Dennis Smith’s “Report from engine company 82″ or “Fire Department of New York – The Bravest 1865-2000” by FF Paul Hashage .
Learn / read more about FDNY Captain Bob Ferrell by clicking HERE
Captain Ferrell rolled out the red carpet …. we got a first class tour by him personally.
Captain Ferrell is holding the 5 foot version of the tool I carry in the picture shown to the right.
This place was AMAZING .. Rhett, Zach and I were in heaven.
The only thing better than the tour was the Stories Captain Ferrell told ….OMG!
I could have sat and listened to him for days! It was a perfect ending to another great trip! That evening, Rhett and I turned the ol “Blog Mobile” (that’s Rhett’s mini-van) south and headed home.
So, that was our trip in a nut shell … even though it took me 3 posts to get it all out! I want to say THANK YOU again to everyone who supported our effort in raising money for the FDNY Rescue 2 Mayday Fund…. WE MADE A DIFFERENCE!
Thanks also for following the site and sticking with me through these last few lengthy posts. I’ve got to catch ya up on some events that have occurred since we got back home but I really wanted to get the New York trip complete before moving on. I’ve had my new Phenix Helmet blessed and we’re almost ready to put her into service. We also caught a little work today but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for all the updates.
I knows it’s been a few days since my last post but I have to tell ya. Our trips here lately are so jam packed and emotional that, for me; it takes a couple days for everything to sink in. I want to try to absorb everything we experience before attempting to write about it. We do however try to keep everyone updated via our Face Book pages.
This will take me a while to get out so it’s gonna a long one. I’ll spare you the pain and try to do it in 2 parts ….
Most of you know that our most recent trip had me, Rhett and Zach Green heading back to New York City. It started out as business and ended up being so much more (as it often does with the 3 of us). Zach called to tell me we needed to head back up and gave me the “high points” of our itinerary.
Once again, we would be stopping by FDNY’s famous Rescue 2 in Brooklyn. Read about our last visit to NYC and Rescue 2 by clicking HERE and HERE . I told Zach that there was NO WAY that we could go back into Rescue 2′s house empty handed after what happened to two of their members back on December 19th 2011.
Firefighters Weidmann and Gersbeck were critically injured while searching the upper floor of a brownstone fire in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Gersbeck was able to make the stairwell while Weidmann pushed through a wall of flame to reach an awaiting ladder on side “Alpha”. His unbelievable escape was caught on video… Click HERE to view the video .
Both of these members are still fighting to recover. They are fighting and suffering, their families are as well… emotionally, physically, psychologically, and financially. Rescue 2 set up a fund just for these situations … The Rescue 2 Mayday Fund. We knew right away what we needed to do .. raise some money for the fund!
We asked for donations and Zach offered to donate 50% of all online sales for the week (Mon-Mon) before our trip. Sattter 911, Bill Carey, Firefighter Nation, Fire / EMS Blog Network and MANY others helped in promoting the effort. It was a HUGE success!
Thanks to your efforts and support, Rhett, Zach and I handed over checks totaling more than $2,300.00 to Captain Liam Flaherty and the members of Rescue 2.
Captain Flaherty and his crew were VERY appreciative. We talked about all of the donations that have been making their way to the fund and how much each dollar counts. Not just each dollar into the fund … but every dollar out of your pocket. Captain Flaherty and the men of Rescue 2 understand how hard “times” are throughout the fire service and how difficult it is to give money away (donate) in these economic times. That’s what made these donations even more special … You most likely couldn’t afford it but you gave ANYWAY …That’s what BROTHERHOOD is all about.
I guess, in a way; we were able to show the men of Rescue 2 that the Brotherhood is alive and well… and not just in New York City. Knowing that a lot of you who donated were sacrificing something to do so (big or small) was very humbling. Again I say THANK YOU !
Keep in mind that Brothers Weidmann and Gersbeck (and their families) are not “out of the woods” yet. Firefighter Gersbeck is now recovering at home while Weidmann faces many more surgeries and extensive rehab (he was burnt over 54% of his body).
If you missed the chance to DONATE, you can still do so by clicking HERE
Photo by Lt Rhett Fleitz (FireCritic.com)
We got to spend some time at Rescue 2. The house and men within it are nothing short of AMAZING.
They had just placed their brand new rig .. a 2011 Ferrara into service on Saturday .. Liam said they were batting 700 … it already smelt like fire. We got the grand tour.
We also got to meet someone very special in my mind …Brendan Ielpi.
I had the honor of meeting Brendan’s father, Lee; back during our October 2011 visit. Lee Ielpi is a co-founder of the WTC Tribute Center and Chief Billy Goldfeder had arranged for him to give us a personal tour. It was one of the most emotional events of my life! I will never forgot the time I spent with Lee, and what he shared with us that day.
I still cry thinking about thinking about that visit. He kept a hand on me the entire time … a hand on my shoulder, clasping my hand into his or leading me by the arm and he was always looking me in the eyes. I can’t explain how it felt. How it feels still today. Somehow, for whatever reason; we forged a bond that day and it’s one I will carry for the rest of my life.
Read the post and learn more about Lee Ielpi by clicking HERE
Lee lost a son on September 11, 2011 at the World Trade centers. He and his other son Brendan went there that day to “do what they could”. They ended up looking (digging) for a son and brother, Jonathan; who responded in on FDNY’s Squad 288. Three months to the date, they found him but I don’t think Lee has ever “really” left.
Jonathan’s gear is now on display at The Tribute Center. Lee shared his story with us that day standing near that tribute (the gear). I can’t describe the COURAGE that must have taken. The HONOR, RESPECT and PRIDE.
Brendan was also on the job at the time of the attacks. He had traded some time and scheduled off to take a trip with some friends. After learning of the attacks, he picked up his father and responded into the City.
Now, just over 10 years later; Brendan is assigned to Rescue 2 and was pulling a tour when we stopped to visit. I could see his father in him and, for me; it brought back so much emotion. I understand the “father / son firefighters” relationship as my dad is also retired from the job. I don’t know why but I also feel as if us sons share some kind “bond”. As children, we’ve lived the life of a firefighter’s son. As adults, we spend our time trying to meet and live up to the expectations of 2nd generation firefighters who came behind such great men. I know that Lee is proud of Brendan and it was an HONOR to meet him.
So, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and would spend the rest of the evening in Hoboken, NJ.
I got pretty excited because Rhett and Zach decided we would eat at a topless restaurant. This trip was becoming more epic by the minute … Rescue 2, a Mayday Fund donation and now eating at a topless joint??? We need to go to New Jersey more often!
Turns out I think they were just teasing me cause this joint was REAL fancy and I didn’t see any topless women. Then when they brought the food out, it was just little teeny tiny portions and we all had to share. They laughed and told be it was “TOPAS” and not “topless” …LMAO. It was good food anyway.
And, turns out there was a firehouse right across the street.
These were some great men as well and we even got to meet their Battalion Chief.
He was there for a station / gear inspection but invited us in anyway. We had some great conversation and then I handed him one of our Brotherhood Chips.
Get you FireCritic / Ironfiremen.com Brotherhood Chip HERE
We took the chance to show the members some of the MN8-FoxFire Product line. Like everyone else who sees it for the first time, they were overtaken with “Glow Fever”.
The Chief was so excited that he invited us back to headquarters the next morning to meet the Chief!
The next morning, we stopped by a local bakery and bought some stale biscuits to take to the station … we try to never go into a firehouse empty handed. The members LOVED em! Rhatt and Zach called em bagels but they sure looked and felt like a stale biscuit or doughnut to me…LOL
TO BE CONTINUED ……
Now, see part 2 by clicking HERE and the 3rd and final part by clicking HERE
I started “blogging” back in December of 2008 while assigned to Station #9C (The “Melrose Misfits). I never imagined that it would grow into something as big as it has or that it would have been as rewarding as it is. When I was moved from Station #9, I decided to create the Wooden Ladders and Iron Firemen Blog. Later, with Rhett’s help; we shortened the name to Ironfiremen.com and moved over to the Fire/EMS Blog Network. It was the best move I ever made.
The site continues to grow. My views or “hits” have TRIPLED from 2010 to 2011! I’ve always kidded about having 2 readers but obviously, there is a lot more than that. I still don’t understand why …. I don’t even know where I “fit in” as far as the “network” or other sites go.
By that I mean that I’m not sure there is even a “category” for me or the Blog. I’m not a straight forward ”news” or “educational” type of site. I don’t know what folks are looking for when they “click on” or visit Ironfiremen.com but obviously, they’re finding it (or something that keeps em coming back anyway).
One of the things I’m most proud of is having been voted
The distinction of Blog of the Year and the sites growing popularity has opened many doors and propelled us in several directions. Those of you who follow regularly know that Rhett and I have been “on the road” a lot this year and each trip has been related in some way or another to our sites.
Our advertising, promotional, branding and networking efforts has allowed us to meet some amazing people and make many new friends. Not only that, we’ve also become involved with several outstanding organisations within the Fire/EMS industry along the way.
We’ve accomplished so much in 2011 that it would be difficult to pack into a single post. That said, I’ll just hit the month by month highlights for ya and TRY to keep it short …. see if you remember these and ENJOY the “look back” ….
January 2011 . Looking at the stats, my busiest day as far as ”hits” was the 17th. I had 2 posts up that day as Roanoke’s Bravest battled a Multi-Alarm Fire and stupid drivers at a local Days Inn.
You can re-visit those posts on Ironfiremen.com HERE and HERE .
For MORE on that incident from Fire Critic and RoanokeFirefighters.com (including more photos) click HERE and HERE
The 17th may have been the site’s busiest day in January but the fire was not what stands out in my mind as most memorable.
It was January that the Roanoke Fire Department suffered an ” The End of an Era” with the passing of Battalion Chief Bobbie Slayton.
Chief Slayton served the City of Roanoke for nearly 45 years. He had been a Chief longer than I had been on the job. My dad worked for Bobbie as his Chief’s Aid / Driver for many years. Towards the end of his career, he was shuffled from his beloved “B-Shift” to “C” where I had the honor of working for him. Bobbie’s death was a huge loss for our Department. He’s still missed but spoke and thought of often.
He had suffered a stroke on December 26, 2010 and remained hospitalized until his passing on January 8, 2011. He was such an icon to our Department that, in his final days; our Local (IAFF L-1132) had a member “posted” by his hospital room door 24/7. It was only fitting that Captain Craig Sellers was by his side (along with family) when he passed.
The posts following his death were some of the hardest I’ve written. For at least as long as I’m alive, Chief Slayton will never be forgotten.
There’s a GREAT picture of Bobbie and the members of Station #1B with the restored Bell from the tower at now “Historic” Station #1. We now only use the bell for funeral services. The irony is that the bell Chief Slayton worked so hard to refurbish sounded his Final Alarm.
See related posts and photos from VaFireNews.com and RoanokeFirefighters.comHERE and HERE
February 2011 : The post receiving the most hits for February was when we announced winning the Blog of the Year contest but the month was really about football, fires and “support systems”!
There was plenty of fire to go around all across the State. We caught our share and even took in a job with our County Brothers. See that post HERE .
It was also the month that I first introduced a “semi-regular” column here on Ironfireman.com that I call “Tricks of the Trade” .
March 2011 : Things got REALLY busy for me and Rhett in March. Among everything else that happened, we would travel to EMS Today in Baltimore, Md and FDIC in Indianapolis.
FDIC was a BLAST! Rhett presented his class “Social Media in the Fire Service” for the first time … what an HONOR. I filled in and covered his position with Firefighter Netcast where once again I found myself surrounded by some of the top leaders of today’s Fire Service.
Who would have ever figured to see me hanging around folks like Chief Billy Goldfeder or Chief Alan Brucini? (we also met Captain Dugan who gave the Keynote Address along with retired FDNY member Kevin Shea). We met many friends and followers of our sites and made twice as many new ones.
Back at home, I would meet one very special new friend … Father Webb.
Father Webb was just meeting and “feeling us out” back on St. Patty’s Day but now has become our “Official” Fire Department Chaplin.
Chief Adkins fixed up a mess of corned beef and cabbage and we had Father Webb out to share in the meal. This was the beginning of a GREAT relationship between our members and Father Webb. I was and remain excited to have him on and at our side. I hope the relationship continues to grow and can mimic the one shared by Father Judge and the FDNY. See my related post HERE
April was also the month where we had our biggest “Give Away” to date. After winning the Blog of the Year contest, I figured what better way to say “THANKS” to my readers than to give away a pair of Black Diamond X2 Boots? No “el-cheap-o, contesto’s” here baby … that was a high dollar pair of boots! Congratulations to loyal reader / follower Patrick Lynch of St. Michael’s College Fire & Rescue in Colchester, VT. on winning the boots. What was really cool was how we announced the winner …. watch this..
May 2011 : May would have me traveling the farther than I ever have. Thanks to the Roanoke Rampage Football Team, I would make my way out to California!
There were several highlights to this trip but the most notable would be getting to see my baby sister Jessi and meeting Captain Joe Schmoe of Report on Conditionsfor the first time.
Be sure to hit those links … it was a GREAT trip despite our loss on the field.
I continued to make new friends and meet readers and followers of the site. Casey Potter, wife of loyal follower and fan; Chris Potter invited me down for a surprise Birthday Party for Chris …. how could I not have attended?? See that post HERE .
The biggest news however would come on a GLOBAL level ….
We FINALLY KILLED THAT SON OF A BITCH!
I was on duty and glued to the TV. Emotion overtook me and I cried. I cried tears of joy and sorrow.
For me, it was like living the day of the attacks all over again. My mind was flooded with memories and emotion.
The tears of joy were of his death but the tears of sorrow were for the families of those he murdered. I knew that even then … at his death … he would cause pain to those left behind.
I hope our 343 fallen can now rest in peace. I hope his death brings some sort of comfort to the families left behind and like the Daily News so eloquently says .. I hope he ROTS IN HELL !
June 2011 : Big fires and more funerals.
We buried another member in June. Firefighter/Paramedic David “Dave” Palmer lost his battle with cancer. His was to be our 2nd LODD (Line Of Duty Death) since 2009.
“Big Dave” and I go WAY back. I made Captain in 2000 and was assigned to station #3 ( now considered “old” Station #3 and CLOSED which was located at 6th and Rorer) where we would work together.
Like Chief Slayton, Big Dave will not be forgotten either. I quite often find myself telling stories involving him in one way or another. Things were different back then .. it felt more like a “Fire Department” and we had a lot of fun while getting the job done.
The picture upper right is our crew standing in front of Engine and Medic #3 at the Station. Pictured from L-R is Dave Palmer, Mike Pruitt, Brad Creasy, Lt Richard “Patty” Patterson and myself.
See my related post HERE and coverage from Va Fire News HERE
June would also find me and Rhett together on the fire ground!
I was the Acting Battalion Chief while Rhett was riding the “seat” of of the 1st in Engine (#3) when we caught this 2nd alarm fire.
It was the first time in a while since Rhett and I had been together on a fire. This time however, it was me stuck out in the street and Rhett putting in the work.
I arrived 1st and upgraded the incident to a 2nd Alarm. I was able to catch some pretty good photos while doing my walk around and size up. This pic was taken just as Rhett and his crew were making entry. Some solid work put in on this one!
July 2011 : A new Rookie, Never Forgetting and Honoring our fallen!
July brought Firehouse Expo in Baltimore, Md. and our first 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.
That climb (and the ones to follow) changed me forever. I’ve described the experience as beyond emotional and more near spiritual. I think I captured some of it in my postings because they remain my “most visited”
July as brought me a new “Rookie” Firefighter …. RANDY!
Randy Armbrister from Max Meadows, Va. The picture left was Randy on his 1st day out in the Company.
I wanted to make sure he knew and was comfortable in his SCBA so he started the morning with it on. He checked equipment, cleaned the station and even mowed the lawn with it on.
You’ve seen and read about Randy quite a bit here on the site and I have to admit that it’s been refreshing having a “Rookie” in the house.
It’s kept us busy and even allowed us “older” members to “pick up the pace” a little in an effort to assure Randy is well trained and ready for whatever is thrown at us. Randy has (and continues to ) met all expectations and challenges with a willingness to learn and a smile. He’s only disappointed me once but we corrected that problem QUICK. Read ” I had to PULL THE BOOK ” by clicking HERE .
August 2011 : What a month! Fire rescue International in Atlanta, Ga, our 2nd 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, Randy’s 1st fire and a GAY BAR !
I cried a lot in Atlanta … I get choked up now even thinking about it. Rhett and I would make our 2nd 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb and this one would impact me even more than our first.
There were several things that happened in Atlanta that I will carry with me until I die
Before our climb, I remembered an e-mail I had received from my youngest daughter (Reba) back before our 1st climb in Baltimore. I had obviously saved it and opened and read it once again before our assent in Atlanta. I want to share that e-mail with you again …
“Dad , today after reading your most recent blog ” we are all climbing ” I wanted to tell you ….. Your the most amazing selfless person I know … You work so hard to save people you don’t even know and at the same time are working just hard to save all of us … You use your spare time to spread the word of your great profession that in my opinion (and yours) you can’t call a ” job” it’s just something you were meant to do …. There is no one else in this world like you !!!! ( well the buckaroo and I – but we are exceptions bc we are only a mold ) …. Good luck on your climb I know you can do it ESP bc of the cause but also because I’ve never seen ANYTHING you can’t do !!!! ( well you might not be able to carry Rhett lol unless u had to ) ….. Anywho …. Just wanted to let you know your amazing in everything you do and the buckaroo and I love and miss you very much …. Be safe have fun , Love .. Reba and YOUR buckaroo ”
How AWESOME is that?
I learned the same things listed in that e-mail about Rhett that day. I had “known” it but never really seen it until that climb.
Rhett and I are a lot alike, especially when it comes to Brotherhood and the job. We climb alike and for the same reasons… it’s a MEMORIAL.
We were HONORED to be in the 1st group up in Atlanta but quickly learned that we were attached to the “wrong” group. Lucky for us, they didn’t “get it” and soon left us behind. It was how it should have been … Rhett and I alone in that stairway … paying our respects. It was then that he brought me to tears and showed me what the words HONOR and RESPECT were all about.
Rhett was having a tough time with this climb. No breaks, no water, for whatever reason; he was struggling. Near the top, he stopped and turned around … I though he was quitting. ” I missed one” he said. He wasn’t quitting, he had missed a step, turned around and climbed that flight AGAIN! Nobody would have ever know right?? WRONG …. he would have. As bad as he was hurting, HE CLIMBED IT AGAIN ! BROTHERHOOD, HONOR,TRADITION,PRIDE and RESPECT … we live by it!
Kevin Totten and Tommy Warshaw joined us again while Bill Carey climbed with us for the 1st time. Rhett’s son Preston made it most of the way and Dad even carried the Buckaroo for one flight. Hit the link above .. it’s a good read.
October 2011 : The 30th Annual National Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial Weekend and an UNBELIEVABLE trip to New York City!
This would be my 2nd year attending the Memorial Weekend and I would find it just as emotional as the first.
Rhett and I were there fulfilling obligations with Firefighter Netcast. We had the honor of recording stories from the survivors. Once again, a lot of tears were shed as we listened to the families share their stories of our fallen Brothers and Sisters.
The Memorial Weekend is every October and if you’ve never attended .. MAKE PLANS NOW!
Rhett and I also made a trip up to the Big Apple. He was teaching Social Media in NJ and I was assisting Zach Green and Fox Fire in the City.
It was an AMAZING trip because neither Rhett nor I had been to the City since the attacks. It was a humbling experience.
While Rhett was teaching, Chief Billy Goldfeder had set Zach and I up with a personal tour of the Tribute Center. Co Founder Lee Ielpi would conduct the tour.
Lee is a retired member of FDNY’s Rescue 2 and lost his son, Jonathan; was on the job and assigned to FDNY Squad 288. Jonathan was murdered on September 11, 2001 in the attacks on the Trade Center and Lee would spend the next 3 months searching for his body. I don’t believe Lee has really EVER left that site since.
I can’t describe the tour he gave us … for whatever reason, there was a “bond” between us. Lee kept a hand on me the entire time, I can feel his touch even now as I reflect on our time together. It was a “father’s” touch and one I will cherish.
They recovered Jonathan’s body mostly in tact. They also were able to recover his turnout gear. That gear is on display at the Tribute Center. Lee wants us all to see that set of gear and to know the story behind it. Us .. me, you, him, her and our children. He suffers the pain of passing by that gear EVERYDAY hoping that we can all learn from this horrible act. If you’re ever in New York … GO!
December : Rhett and I returned to GROUND ZERO and made our 4th Memorial Stair Climb!
Not only was it our 4th climb, it was in New York City, at Ground Zero and in the shadows of The Freedom Tower ( 1 World Trade Center ) !
We were there helping out the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation.
Founding members of some of the 1st organized Memorial Stair Climbs, Oren Bersagel-Briese, Scott Eckels, Josh Smith, Brian Bush and Shawn Dunston ( along with Dave Statter) were also there.
Even though it was not “Official”, there was no way that we were going to be this close to Ground Zero, with this group of Brothers and NOT make a climb in Memory and Honor of our 343 fallen Brothers. SO WE CLIMBED ! We finished on the roof top looking down on the site where our Brothers had fallen. Where so many lives were lost and Heroes remain.
Rhett and I have been climbing so long and hard that we never really knew where we were going … WE FOUND IT THERE !
I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve the life I’ve been given this past year but I am truly THANKFUL. Together, Rhett and I have made the journey of a lifetime in just a few short years. I can only imagine what 2012 will bring us.
I want to say THANKS to my wife (Donna) and entire family for the love, support and for putting up with me all this time. Thanks to Rhett for the friendship, the BROTHERHOOD and for taking me along. THANKS as well to you .. our readers because it is your support that has allowed us these opportunities. I hope, that if even in the smallest of ways; that we’ve been able to give something back in return!
Stay SAFE and in House and I’ll see you next year!
LMAO …. I have SO much content and “directions” I could go in for a great post. Of course, my regular readers know that the one thing that I don’t tolerate is “fretting” so I guess I’ll shoot it to ya straight.
It’s been a busy summer for me but for some reason, these last few weeks have really taken their toll. I’m not sure if Im just getting old or if all my work, travel and “running around” has just finally caught up with me. Either way, I’m whooped!
It doesn’t help that Im riding as the “acting” Battalion this cycle. It seems like every time I ride the car, “something” happens so I’ve just been sitting back waiting for whatever it’s gonna be this time.
We’re working Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday this cycle (24 hour shifts). My first day had me starting out in a “Harassment in the workplace” class. A half day in a class room with 2 lawyers … WoooooHooooo! The remainder of the shift wasn’t too bad. No real big excitment. Several runs including a kitchen fire but nothing major. Wednesday, the Buckaroo and I had a busy day on the farm. Of course it rained all day so we were soaked and freezing by the time we got back to the house. Good thing for me is that I would be able to unwind later that evening.
Good friend and Brother fireman Captain Joe Lyons from the Westfield Fire Department in Indiana had contacted me about a trip he’d be making to our valley. Captain Joe, Senior Firefighter Chad Everitt and KME rep. Mike Smith arrived around 6pm Wednesday evening.
We wanted to make sure the guys were taken care of so Rhett (The Fire Critic), Todd “Boots” Harris and I met em at the hotel around 6:45. We ended up next door at a local Mexican Restaraunt for sizzling hot fajitas and cold beers.
It was a good dinner! We hit it off right from the start. Captain Joe was waiting outside the hotel when I arrived. I came disguised in my daughters little sports car type vehicle. As I got out and headed to the front door, the Captain came to greet me. Hummmm … how’d he know it was me?? LOL. I guess the bunker boots, mustache and cowboy hat were a bit of a clue.
These guys are good firemen. We were a good fit. It was like we had known each other for years. It’s funny how that works out amoung brothers. I’ve had the honor to meet folks from all across the Country and beyond yet we all seem to share the same experiences. It doesn’t where you’re from when you’re “on the job”…. we all “relate” . It’s the same story with different names from one state to the next.
The Capt. and Chad ( aka “Trucker” ) work for the Westfield Fire Department. Mike Smith is the President of Donley Safety , their local KME distributor. Westfield has a new KME ladder on order but is also working on a new “prop” for their training facility. The guys needed a fly section from an aerial for a paripit wall / roof mock up and Mike had the connections. KME’s ladders are built here in Roanoke so the guys hooked up the trailer and hit the road. West Virginia proved to be an interesting leg of their journey as they were able to stop and chat with one of their State Police officers (LOL). After meeting us, they probily thought they were STILL in West Va!
Anyway, yesterday; I got my Battalion paperwork duties cleared early and escourted the guys over to the KME facility at 07:30am. Afterwards, they would head out for home. I hope they enjoyed the trip … I know for us, it was an honor to meet and share a few stories, beers and a meal with our brothers from Indiana. Let us know the next time you guys head our way!
After getting the guys over to KME, I headed out to our 4th Annual Officer’s Seminar.
This years presenter was Retired Deputy Chief James P. Smith of the Philadelphia Fire Department. Chief Smith is a GREAT speaker who presented “Strategic and Tactical Considerations on the Fireground” .
Chief Smith has a book by the same title … find that book by clicking HERE . To see more topics offered by Chief Smith, click HERE .
It was refreshing to here someone with Chief Smith’s experience and education speak. The Chief could talk “fireman” because he is one! He worked through the ranks … he’s “been there, done and seen that”. He was even there for the One Meridian Plaza Fire back in February 1991.
The turn out for our Seminar was good but could and should have been so much better.
We lost 3 Brothers in the One Meridian Plaza Fire. Due to the PRV (pressure reducing valve) limiting water to the upper floors, the members were forced to hand jack 5″ hose to the 28th floor! Not just once … they made 3 stretches of 5″ ! Multple alarm fires (as in 4th alarm and higher) seemed to be “normal” for Chief Smith. He’s even taken in multiple refinary fires! How could you not learn something from a man with this kind of experience?
The seminar’s attendance was well rounded. We had members from The City, Roanoke County, Salem and several surrounding combonation or volunteer Departments. I hope we were able to “break even” on expenses so that a 5th Annual can be scheduled.
Obviously, these events come with a cost. In an effort to offset these cost, we do several things … raffles, 50/50 etc. I think the biggest “hit” is the helmet raffles.
Captain Billy Scearce from the Danville Fire Department put a custom paint job on two fire helmets.
I had to remain “in service” so I was in and out of the seminar to take in a few runs.
Nothing big until Captain Martin of City Engine #3-C advised dispatch to notify the Battalion that he was on scene of a mutual-aid “working fire” with our brothers from Roanoke County.
I switched over to the County tac channel just in time to hear command request a 2nd Alarm. I responded in.
By the time I got there ( less than 4 minutes) , companies were already taking up. WTF ?? I thought he pulled a 2nd??
Well, as it turns out; the IC (Incident Commander) struck the 2nd due to the occupancy. This location is a nursing / assisted living facility. Apparently, they had decent smoke showing upon arrival.
The 1st arriving members (County #5 and City #3) along with the sprinkler system were able to knock the fire down rather quickly.
It was a good call. We all know and had just heard from Chief Smith how it’s better to have companies rolling and not need them than to need them and not have them rolling.
My biggest shock was having that many members on scene of a fire under control and a Deputy Chief having to load hose! Yea… a County Deputy LOADING HOSE … on a City rig no doubt! LMAO.
Good job by all members on scene !
After the seminar, I had a pretty busy day. Sleeping in a strange bed in the busiest house in the City …. NOT MUCH REST.
The Brothers from County Station #1 must have known I’ve been having a busy month and invited me out for breakfast before they headed out to the 2nd day of our Seminar (same lecture in 2 days to allow for work schedules etc).
My wife dropped the Buckaroo off at the Station this morning and we headed out to meet Captain Witt and the crew.
BROTHERHOOD ! These guys “get it” .. A GREAT COMPANY !
Thanks to Captain Witt and the boys for the invite … we enjoyed it.
Tomorrow, will be just as busy.
I’ll begin the day with an airport disaster drill. Afterwards, I’ll head over to our “Fired Up for a Cure” event to benifit breast cancer.
There will be all kinds of activities on site.
Kid events .. Fire, EMS and Police demos, free ice skating, music, 5 and 10k runs, free food and much much more.
Check out Va Fire News for more details by clicking HERE .
I’ve asked myself that question thousands of times since the attacks on our Nation back in 2001. My dad, Rhett (The FireCritic), Todd “Boots” Harris and myself recently sat down for an interview with Roanoke Times reporter Jorge Valencia. It was a GREAT interview and I hope he realizes what he was able to capture on his recorder.
We sat around a table at The Second Alarm, a bar that Boots and his dad (also retired from Roanoke Fire Department) has owned and operated for over 30 years. As most firemen are, we were slow and hesitant to talk at first but, after we got started; we totally forgot Jorge was even at the table. A lot of what he head was fireman to fireman. Brother to brother and Father to son.
Dad called me that morning in 2001 and said for me to get to our shop asap. We stood together, in horror, attached to our small TV for days. We didn’t talk much … we didn’t have to. We knew what the other was thinking … we were sharing it together. We tried to explain to Jorge that what made it so bad was the fact that we had the “inside scoop”. He knew (or at least had an idea of) what our FDNY Brothers were facing. When the first tower fell, dad simply said in a crackled voice ” we just lost a bunch of firemen “.
It didn’t need spoken, I think he was thinking out loud while his mind was trying to equate what we had just witnessed. I knew all too well what that collapse meant and said a silent prayer that that our brothers had went quick and painless.
I had been to NYC several times. It started with good friend and Brother Captain Todd Stone. We went together for St. Patrick’s Day and had the honor of riding Rescue 4 in Queens. Following that trip, I returned every year. That’s when I got to ride with Rescue 1 in Manhattan and when I met Joey Angelini ( I would later make my stays at 39/16). Joey made a huge impression on me.
Visitors and guest to a firehouse is a “work detail” of sorts. Someone needs to be assigned to show them around … answer the questions etc. In a smaller Department it’s not such a big deal. The FDNY is swamped with visitors, guest and “buffs”. Typically, the fireman on “watch”, the rookie or less senior man would be assigned to a visitor. After I explained that both my father and I were on the job (in the same Department) back in Va, Joey stepped in. He didn’t have to and it wasn’t expected. Joey was the most senior man in the FDNY. He was also the oldest “in company” and he was on the busiest rig in the city … RESCUE 1 … the elite of the ELITE.
I stuck to him like glue for the entire tour. We caught a bunch of runs and made it to 4 fires that day. It was an awesome experience. Joey spoke of his son, Joey Jr. I could see the pride in his face and hear it in his voice. It was then that I realized how my dad must feel. How I hoped he felt anyway. I wondered about Joey Jr and if he was as proud of his father as I was of mine. Back in “The Noke”, my dad was known as one of, if not THE best firemen on the job. At a minimum, he had the reputation of being a good fireman .. a “good Jake”.
Anyway, I knew Brothers on the job in FDNY. Knew their faces and names. After watching the towers collapse, I knew I had to go. I didn’t know what I could / would do but it had to be better than standing there, watching on TV. Dad stopped me. He didn’t tell me not to go, he simply reminded me that we had a job to do here as well. I had just made Captain and was assigned to the busiest house here in our City. He told me to get my crew in order. To make sure they were all ok and “ready” for whatever may come next. We were under attack and had no idea of what (or where) was coming next. He was right. I called up to 39/16 the following day and they told me not to come. They were swamped with firemen and 1st responders. The massive influx of personnel was only adding to the chaos. It was difficult for me to be here and watch as everything unfolded in New York and DC. but I stayed. That was my job.
I’m not sure what Jorge was looking for in his interview. I think he was wondering how the Fire Department (and it’s firemen) has changed since 9/11. It ended up being a “round table” between several good firemen. I’m not so sure he would have wanted my “take” on how we’ve changed. Are we better or worse? That’s the question everyone else is asking.
I think we’ve made some great steps forward but at the same time feel as if we are no better off today then we were on September 10, 2011. In the days, weeks and months following 9/11, the Fire Service as a whole received some much needed validation. For years, we were looked at as overpaid workers who spent all day playing cards, pulling practical jokes and sleeping. Nobody realized what we actually do. Social Media and all these other outlets were unheard of and nobody was there to tell our stories or promote our profession.
On 9/11, we were front page. Firefighters were front page of every newspaper and the lead story of every news cast. The world got a close up, first hand view of why we are on the job and what we do. We lost 343 Brothers from the FDNY that day and as bad as it sounds, it was almost a kind of validation for our job. Firemen across this Country will give their lives to save others…. people we have never meet and don’t even know. Any one of those 343 could have turned and ran. They could have found a reason to “hang back”. THEY DIDN’T ! They kept climbing. They pushed in and up knowing what we all did … this wasn’t going to have a good ending. That’s why we (the Fire Service) say “Well Done” to our fallen…. they’ve done their job and they did it well.
I never understood as a child that every time Dad went to the firehouse that he may not have returned. Not until I got on the job and realized how many times he must have came close to that realization. I don’t think my children ever really knew. I’m not sure they know now.
In my opinion, it all faded too quickly. People aren’t shaking our hands at the grocery store any more. We didn’t have 20 visitors to the station last week. Folks don’t just stop by to say “Thanks”. Today, much like pre-9/11; the Fire Service is faced with budget issues, under staffing, station closures etc. I guess for some, it may be a comfort to know that it only took less than 10 years to forget. For me, it’s heart breaking!
In the last week or so, memories have been awakened. We’ve had visitors, folks wanting to take pictures and conduct interviews. Ceremonies and services have been planned and all the politicians will be there. Arms around firemen or survivors waving the flag of we haven’t forgotten. Where were you last year? How about the year before? Back when we were fighting for that pay raise that we haven’t seen in 4 years? When we warned against and was fighting the closing and consolidation of 2 of the busiest stations in the City? Why were you not looking for photo ops when we were battling staffing cuts? I would be happier had we not received any of the accolades we did following 9/11. I would have much rather kept working and fighting ”status quo” . That would have been better than receiving all that we did just to see it taken away years later. It would have been easier to have kept working “without” rather than “loosing” what we had gained ….easier to swallow anyway.
I’m not sure about the public but I do think that our politicians have forgotten. Our Brothers?? Firefighters ??? NEVER! We can / will NEVER FORGET. We live it everyday. I do. Not a day goes by that I don’t think back to September 11, 2001 and the sacrifices made that day. And, despite all the political issues etc. I still stand ready to do my job… willing to lay down my life for yours.
None of this made Jorge’s article. Instead, he focused on another aspect of the conversation …. how we honor and remember the fallen. Rhett and I have been participating in 9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs. To date, we have completed 2 climbs ( Baltimore and Atlanta). Tomorrow, we will make our 3rd in Greenbelt, Md !
These climbs are beyond description as far as I’m concerned. I have described it several times as “spiritual” and, for me; it is. Tomorrow’s climb will be so much more. MY DAD WILL BE CLIMBING WITH US! I get emotional just thinking about it …. after 30 years on the job, 6 years retired, my dad (Pop) will climb 110 stories in memory and honor of those 343. As I do with for him, I also think that in part, he’s climbing for me. For those of us left to finish “the climb”. The climb of the Fire Service … of our profession … our calling.
Our climbs benefit the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation. Registration fees and money raised go towards supporting the families of our fallen. Not just those lost on 9/11 but every fireman who was died in the line of duty. It’s the least we can do! If you’ve never attended the Memorial weekend services in Emmitsburg, Md…. YOU SHOULD! Make plans now to attend this October. Visit the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation web site for complete details of stair climbs and the Memorial weekend.
I think the above links are some of the best posts Rhett (FireCritic) and I have ever made. They are heart felt, open and honest. If you haven’t taken the time to read them .. please do. I hope you’ll find in our words what we did in those stairwells.
There are several more things that will make our climb tomorrow special. One is that our families (or part of them anyway) will be there. A firefighters family often times sacrifices as much as the fireman himself. I can’t tell you how many ball games, practices etc that I’ve missed because of the job. My wife … well just let me say that there should be a special place in heaven reserved just for her. To have put up with me, my schedule and this job for 25 yrs is an achievement in it’s self. I love her more than words can say (more than I’ve ever been able to tell or show her) and tomorrow she will share in my climb. She will be there watching…cheering … and I’m sure reflecting on her experiences / losses as a firefighter’s wife. My daughters, Randi-Jo and Reba will also be there along with the Buckaroo. Rhett’s wife and daughter will not be able to make it up but his son, Preston aka “Big P” is making the journey with us! What and HONOR and BLESSING to have such wonderful families.
Another cool thing is that Rhett and I have helped coordinate a special “gift” for the members climbing in Greenbelt tomorrow. Zach Green of FoxFire and MN8 Products has made a limited edition, one time ONLY; commemorative Helmet Band for the climbers. The bands will be numbered 1-343 “of” 343 and will be given to each climber! WOW !!!! What an awesome gift! These bands along with the many other “illuminating” products offered my FoxFire and MN8 are changing the way we fight fire. Their products will SAVE FIREMEN”S LIVES. If you’re not familiar with or have never heard of FoxFire, CLICK THE LINK ABOVE … your life is WORTH it!
I speak with Zach often and in our last conversation last night, he became emotional. He cried. He can’t make the Greenbelt climb but wanted to make sure that everyone there knew that he wanted to be and that he would be with us in spirit. The Helmet Band give donation is him wanting to keep the rest of us safe. He wanted nothing more than to be there in person to hand out the band and shake the hands of those climbing in honor and memory of the 343. He would have then geared up and climbed right beside us! Zach is an AWESOME person. A friend, a Brother and a Fire Service Innovator! Special thanks to Zach Green, the NFFF and everyone involved in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs across the Country!
So there ys have it …. I still don’t know why I’m here. I guess it’s because I (and we) still have work to do. I will do my duty every day to the best of my ability. When not on the job, I will do my best to help support and promote those before me. Tomorrow, my task will be to honor and remember those who have paved my way. I will do so with my best friend, my father, friends and family. I WILL NOT MISS A SINGLE STEP !
Rhett’s driving …. well, let’s just say it works on your nerves. Riding with Rhett will drive you to drinking LOL.
WE HAD A GREAT WEEK IN ATLANTA !!
Rhett and I headed down last Tuesday and got to spend a night withhis sister her husband and his new baby nephew. It was the perfect start to our week. Special THANKS to Valicia for the hospitality.
Wednesday morning, we got out early and headed to the Westin Peach Tree Hotel in down town Atlanta to participate in our 2nd 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.
Once again, we found something special within that stairwell while trying to pay tribute, honor and respect to our fallen 343 Brothers from the FDNY. You can read my post following the climb HERE and Rhett’s HERE .
As mentioned in the links above, Rhett and I were HONORED to climb within the 1st group up. We were with a group of Chief Officers, most notably; our good friend Matt Tobia from Anne Arundel, Md. This was our hardest climb yet.
Another cool note from this climb is the fact that Victor Stagnaro (Director of Fire Service Programs for the National Fallen Firefighter’sFoundation) made the climb as well. Victor does a TON of work behind the scenes for these climbs and decided to pull “double duty” in Atlanta. AWESOME! Rhett and I are always happy to see and talk withVictor. He is a great friendwho can always be found working diligently for the NFFF. It was an added bonus and honor to have climbed with him! Here’s a video from the climb …
Rhett and I are planning to make our 3rd climb on the 10th anniversary of the attacks next month on September 11th in Greenbelt, Md. If you have never climbed, YOU NEED TO ! If you are worried about about whether or not you can make the 110 stories, DON’T. Rhett and I will climb with you, at whatever pace; and assure we reach the top.
After the climb, we unwound a bit and then headed out to John’s Creek Fire Station #63.
Johns Creek has a GREAT Department and 63 represents them well! A-Shift Captain Mark Akins had contacted me earlier after reading that Rhett and I would be heading to Atlanta for FRI. He invited us out for a tour and dinner with his crew … how could we refuse?
See my post on the vist HERE and read why the Fire Critic describes them as ” Firemen’s firemen“ HERE .
Ironfiremen and FireCritic.com visiting with Captain Mark Akins and the crew from Johns Creek Ga Station #63
Later in the week, while on the floor of FRI; I had the honor and privilege of meeting their Chief. Our talk was brief because he caught me busy at work. I hope I was able to convey to him how professional the guys from 63 are ( although I’m sure he already knew).
Their actions were a true testament to the word Brotherhood.
Talk about customer service and positive public perception !
Special thanks to Captain Akins and the brothers from #63 A-shift for an awesome meal and a fantastic visit. The members in attendance were Lt. Eddie Lee, FAO Phil Pirkle, FAO Kevin Castleberry, Sgt Tom Johnson, FF Jost Cater, FF Brandon Kingrey, and FF Grant Eckard.
Thursday, we started the morning out by joining Dave Statter and the NFFF at Atlanta Fire Station #11. We were there for a very special press release.
The Motorola Solutions Foundation awarded the NFFF $1 MILLION DOLLARS towards their Scholarships for survivors and Safety Training Initiatives ! See the official press release HERE .
We had a quick lunch and then headed out to check in for FRI and begin to set up the booth. Later that evening, Captain Akins from 63 met us at the hotel.
We had a great visit the day before but wanted some time with the Capt. and his crew where we could share a beer together.
We shared a little time together at the hotel before heading out for dinner. It was another very cool visit. The 3 of us seem to share a lot of the same views and are of the same opinion on many issues.
Firemen are all alike and share the same problems no matter where they are from. Thanks again to Captain Akins for taking the time to not only spend with us but for making us feel at home.
The next morning was going to be busy and we were already tired.
Although classes had been going on, tomorrow; was opening day for the exhibit floor.
Jeff Harkey (Daily911Deals) had arrived and would be staying with us for the remainder of our trip.
Jeff is another GREAT friend but when you get him and Rhett together, it’s hard to keep pace with them. They tackle EVERYTHING they do at 110%!
It was my mistake to enlist them in the search for a “Booth Babe” . They quickly began to take over and manage eveyaspect of our search. Interviews, auditions, background searches etc. When I wake up the next morning, our fold out hide-a-way sofa bed is in PIECES. LMAO that musta been one hell of an audition!
I didn’t even want to know so I got cleaned up, dressed and headed out to meet Zach Green from Fox Fire. This was my purpose for attending FRI.
I have posted many times on Zach and the Fox Fire Illuminating Product Line. I had helped work the booth and Firehouse Expo, and would do the same in Atlanta for FRI.
I hope you folks don’t get tired of hearing it because I say it all the time but THIS IS A GREAT PRODUCT !
This technology is going to change the way we fight fire!
It actually sells itself after you see it work, all I have to do is explain how and why.
Our booth stayed PACKED!
I’d dare say that we were the busiest booth on the floor.
Often times, we would have folks lined up out into the aisles waiting to see the product and receive a personal demo.
I think the show was another HUGE success for Zach and the Foxfire line. I guess I should say that I KNOW IT WAS A SUCCESS because we actually sold out of the helmet bands while there. That means that at least that many brothers and sisters will be able to preform their duties more efficiently and SAFER.
So, we worked the floor non-stop for the next 2 days! At 4 pm on Saturday, we broke down the booth and Zach and the Foxfire crew were on their way home. Rhett, Jeff and I would stay for another day.
After packing up Foxfire and seeing them safely on the road, we had the honor of packing and loading another unbelievable exhibit. The 9/11 Better Angels exhibit by Dawn Siebel.
This is a HUGE exhibit that has hundreds of pieces. Most of the pieces are fragile and must be individually wrapped and packaged.
It was an HONOR to have been entrusted with this task.
If you haven’t seen the exhibit yet, you need to do so. Im not sure where it will be on display next but at the very least, hit the link I provided above to read about it and view a video of the display.
Thanks to the NFFF for all they do in getting this enormous exhibit out for public display!
( I’m reasonably sure that the exhibit will be on display somewhere on the grounds duringthe Memorial Weekend coming up in October in Emmitsburg, Md. If you haven’t done so yet, MAKE PLANS TO ATTEND NOW … here’s the link with all the details Fire Hero.org )
So, we headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest before heading out to dinner. I should have went to bed hungry! If you haven’t heard or read it yet, we ended up at a very “exclusive” restaurant for dinner that night. Special thanks to Jeff’s “GUY” for the recommendation. HAD I ONLY KNOWN HE WAS A COP! LMAO .. anyway if you missed it, CLICK HERE for details.
Sunday morning, we were up and at it early again. This time, we were packing for our journey home.
Home is about an 8 hour drive for Rhett and me but we had some stops to make along the way. Jeff was going to tag along as far as Charlotte due to his plane / train ride back to Raleigh NC being cancelled due to Irene. I rode in the back so I could keep an eye (and my pistol) on the two of em after their escapades the night before.
We headed straight to Charlotte’s downtown fire station #1.
We were greeted by Captain Blake Redden. Another great fireman who understands the meaning of “Brotherhood”. I had actually met Captain Redden on the floor of FRI. He knew Jeff ( Fire News.net ) and they had met up somewhere on the floor. Jeff brought him by the Fox Fire booth for a quick intro. Next thing you know, we’re invited to drop by for a tour on our way home!
L-R Charlotte Fire Captain Blake Redden, Ironfiremen.com's Captain Wines, Charlotte Dispatch Supervisor Jeff Williams and The Fire Critic Rhett Fleitz
It was a very cool visit.
They even have their dispatch center on the top floor of the station. We got the COMPLETE tour.
Captain Redden took up upstairs where he introduced us to lead dispatcher Jeff Williams. Jeff fit like a glove! We could have sat and talked with these two guys for hours!
Unfortunately, we were still on a tight schedule and had to get back on the road.
Special thanks to Captain Redden and Jeff Williams for their time. Rhett and I both know and understand what it’s like to have visitors roll in on a Sunday.
We left Jeff Harkey in Charlotte and Rhett and I got back on the road. We had one more stop yet.
Ryan Monteith, The Fire Critic Rhett Fleitz, Captain Wines of Ironfiremen.com and Bill Shick
You may remember back to an early July (2011) post where I posted on a visitor to Lucky #13. CLICK HERE FOR THAT POST . Brother Bill Shick described himself as an avid reader of the site and was passing through. He said he just HAD to stop.
Bill and I had a great visit back in July and he told me that if I was ever in or around Charlotte to be sure and look him up.
Ironically, Bill works at Charlotte’s Station #1 but he was off duty on Sunday. The good news was that we was working his 2nd job as a firefighter in Davidson, NC. It was on our way home and just a few short miles.
Rhett and I had a great visit will Bill, Julia ( Bill’s girlfriend) and Ryan. Of course, they gave us the tour and showed us the rigs but the best part of firemen visiting firemen is sitting on the tailboard and telling stories. We did a lot of that.
I knew back when Bill walked into Lucky #13 that he was a good guy. Our visit with him on Sunday proved it. Thanks to Bill, Julia and Ryan for their time and brotherhood.
Ok, to wrap things up, I need to say a special THANKS to Rhett. He has been a great friend and a TRUE BROTHER. We have traveled a lot together and each trip gets better and better.
Thanks too to Jeff Harkey. I have just recently meet Jeff and knew I had made another great friend from the first moment. Three men living together in a hotel room for a week takes a lot of tolerance. When 1 of those 3 men is me, the tolerance level multiplies. LMAO
I also need to THANK Rhett’s other sister Vanessa. Vanessa works for Westin and has always been the one behind the scenes setting us up in hotel rooms as we travel across the country.
I’m glad she doesn’t work for the Econo Lodge or Super 8 because every hotel we have ever stayed in is FIRST CLASS!
I mentioned that for our stay in Atlanta, we had a two room suite! IT WAS AWESOME. We had room to work and play.
When our guests would come in, they couldn’t believe the view! There were helicopters landing on buildings BELOW us !
So, it was indeed ANOTHER great trip for The Fire Critic and Ironfiremen.com Better than that, it was even better for Rhett Fleitz and Willie Wines. Our next stop will be Greenbelt, Md for our 3rd 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb on September 11th! We hope to see you there. Until we see ya again, Stay Safe and in House!
I’m still so proud and in a state of mind that I’m not sure if I can even post about it yet.
All of you folks know that Kevin Totten (Salem Fire/EMS), Rhett Fleitz (Fire Critic) and I have been here in Baltimore for the past few days for Firehouse Expo 2011. You also know that we participated in the 9/11 memorial stair climb. 110 stories in full PPE in honor and memory of our 343 fallen brothers from the FDNY.
The event was a huge success and I am proud to have been a part of it!
Following 9/11, these climbs have been going on across the Country for some time now but I believe that this particular event had the largest number of participants to date. Obviously, the goal is to have 343 members climbing and we reached the mark of 323 here in Baltimore!
Kevin, Rhett and I were in group #19.
I’ve been emotional the entire time. Emotional as in I can’t even talk about it without getting choked up.
Dave Statter and I talked about it. I remembered back to when he had us ( Firefighter Netcast … Rhett, John Mitchel and I ) up to Emmitsburg, Md for the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend.
Dave, his wife Hillary and I spoke of being on the Memorial grounds. They both spoke passionately of how the experience there would be almost “spiritual”. I didn’t understand it at the time but would soon learn how true and accurate their description was. At that time in my life, I hadn’t experienced something truly “spiritual” for a while. I did that weekend.
The experience left me wondering if I would even return to “that place” again. Return not Emmitsburg, but that emotional place I had found while there.
I found it again here in Baltimore!
I’m not even sure “spiritual” explains it. I was scared. Nervous…excited, anxious and apprehensive. What if I couldn’t make it? I knew (or thought) I had the heart but what if I didn’t have the legs? My thoughts went to those 343 …. did they have the same thoughts? Either way, they had a job to do so they went up…. I did too.
The climb was hard. I knew it would be but I also knew that it was 10 times harder for those Brothers who lost their lives that day climbing in the World Trade Centers.
I spoke with the group and we formed a rank structure. I was to be in command. (ANOTHER HONOR).
Kevin took the lead, followed by Kevin, Jody, Chris, Rhett and I trailed the group. In the first flight, I said the Lord’s Prayer. I followed that with the Firemen’s prayer. I then began to think of the brave men who gave their all that September day.
My intentions were to remain silent and allow each member to “have their time” in the stairwell but instinct kicked in and I immediately began checking on our group. I made sure each member was “ok” along the way while giving frequent reminders of water and hand rails. I’m a Captain…. that’s what I do.
Our group was professional. Each member disciplined and we honored the 343 well! We were a team, working for the same cause… towards the same goal. In a few very short minutes, members from Va, Kentucky, Ohio and Maryland became a company! I knew from step one that we would all complete the climb even if it meant carrying someone up.
There was plenty of time to reflect. It was a long grueling climb. I thought often of not only the 343 members from that day but also of many of our lost Brothers from before and since.
I thought of Pete Lund, William “ Billy” Hick, Curtis Meyran, and John Bellew just to name a few.
I climbed for Joseph Angelini and his son Joey Jr. I carried both tags and looked at them often. We have worn their pictures every day of the Expo since. I have them around my neck even now as I type this post.
I couldn’t help but think of their families and how the news must have came to them. I wonder if they are ok. How they’re coping. I wonder if the money raised for this event will ever reach them? I’m sure it will and hope it makes a difference! More than that, I hope they learn that someone carried their loved ones photo while climbing 110 stories. I hope they know we havent forgotten.
It was somber, sad and frightening. Those 343 entered that structure that September day knowing it was a coffin. There’s no way way they didn’t know it was” gonna be bad”, but they went anyway. Me….us? We had it easy. We had water stations on the 16th and 20th floor (or some where close anyway). We had Medics in the door ways to ensure we were all ok.
We did the climb 22 stories at a time. We hit the top then rode the service elevator down to the lobby. Then, we headed back up the stairs. There was a short distance between the elevator and stairway we used. That walk took us through the lobby where a large crowd gathered to cheer the climbers on.
It was humbling and brought me to tears every lap.
Group 19 completed our climb in 1 hour! My legs went from feeling like rubber to as if they weighed 100 lbs each. My gear must have tripled in weight as it became sweat soaked. What the gear couldn’t absorb filled my boots.
I looked into the faces of each member of group 19 as we rounded the landings. I saw what I can only imagine was on the faces of the 343 as they climbed …PRIDE and DETERMINATION.
I will remember this climb and my time in that stairwell until the day I die. I will remember Joseph Angelini, his son Joey Jr and the other 341 members of the FDNY who died in stairwells that day.
I WILL NEVER FORGET. Thanks to National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, The Baltimore City FD, The Hilton and all the volunteers who helped with the event. Thanks also to the 323 members who made this climb and to group 19.
Tomorrow, Rhett (The Fire Critic), Kevin Tottin ( Salem Fire / EMS ) and I will arrive in Baltimore, Md for Firehouse Expo 2011.
We have a very busy work schedule through Sunday. We will be there working with Firefighter Netcast and will be set up in Booth #743 with the likes of Bill Schum ( Fire Geezer) and Dave Statter ( Statter 911 ) … Stop by for a visit!
We also have several meetings to attend and people to meet with. You will of course find us with the crew from the Fire/EMS Blog Network, Go Forward Media and Go Forward Fire. Bosses Dave Iannone and Chris ” hey buuuuuddy” Herbert always take pretty good care of us. Bill Carey, Paul Andrews and Mary Velline are another 3 folks from the Go Forward team who have always made me feel right at home. You may also find us hanging out with Zach Green and his crew from MN8 Products / Fox Fire. Despite all the work, we’re gonna have a good time!
We (Rhett, Kevin and I) will also be participating in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb on Thursday at 2pm. We will climb 110 stories of stairs in full turn out gear (I’ll be the skinny guy with a big mustache carrying Rhett).
Someone asked me the other day why in the world would I want to do that?
That’s easy … because my brothers of the FDNY couldn’t ! They weren’t allowed the time. The towers came down before they could complete their job and maybe, in some small way; this will allow me to finish it for them.
343 members of the FDNY were climbing those stairs for the people pictured above right …. now, I’ll climb for those 343!
At the sign up, we were asked if we’d like to climb in honor or memory of a particular Firefighter. I choose Joseph “Joey” Angelini.
That’s Joey pictured to the left. Years ago, I used to go to the city for St. Patty’s Day. I’d always stay at a firehouse and catch a ride. One of my first rides was with Rescue 1. Joey was on that tour and went out of his way to spend time and talk with me. He made a lasting impression.
He was the oldest member of the FDNY still in company and he was on one of the busiest rigs ! Talk about Wooden Ladders and Iron Firemen!
His love for the job was evident in his every word …. the pride and honor. It doesn’t seem like we see a lot of that any more.
Like my dad, Joey must have passed his passion on to his son. Joseph Angelini Jr. followed his father’s footsteps but, regretfully; was also killed in the towers that September day ( assigned to Ladder Company 4).
My climb wont be easy. Their’s was worse!
I haven’t been to the gym nor have I practiced for the event. They didn’t have that luxury. The alarm sounded and they went.
This climb has been on my mind a lot lately. I feel honored to have the opportunity.
As I was thinking, it hit me … I’ve been climbing stairs all my life. Most of us on the job have.
Not necessarily stairs like I’ll climb on Thursday, or the ones they climbed that day; but stairs none the less.
Give me a minute or 20 to explain.
Rhett had a post up last week about the final season of Rescue Me. See that post HERE . In it, he says …
“I think that many may agree that Rescue Me was a decent show in the beginning, but as the seasons progressed dysfunctional lives and too often nearly impossible heroics in conditions which are not indicative of normal firefighting lost real firefighters along the way.”
I have to disagree. I LOVE the show. I can relate to the character Tommy Gavin. The show hasn’t “lost” me and, despite what others may think; I consider myself to be a “real firefighter”.
I’m as dysfunctional as Gavin. Hell, maybe more so! Most of the old or “real” firefighters I know are as well. WE HAVE TO BE! Is that a good thing? Healthy? Probably not but that doesn’t change the facts.
Are we all as messed up as Gavin? No…. it’s TV. They just rolled all (or most of) our problems into one character.
You can’t see what we’ve seen and do what we’ve done and think yourself normal. Do dead people talk to me from inside my locker? NO. But there are faces I see often and will never forget. Memories I can’t loose. I would bet that true statistics within our profession for alcohol and spousal abuse would amaze you. Whats the divorce rate in your Department? The stress of this job can be overwhelming. Wonder why heart attacks are so prevalent?
Talk about stairs to climb …. try working a 24 hour shift away from your family. Get off tomorrow morning and go to you’r 2nd job. Screen a few calls from the wife about where you have to be when to pick up the kid or kids for this or that. Fire Officer class is tonight 6- 8pm … that promotion test is just weeks away and Firefighter “Joe” from the truck could use a hand building his deck for the company cookout next week.
Don’t forget to stop by so and so and drop off a check for whatever lesson or sports club and we’re out of milk.
By the way, the dishwasher quit working, the grass needs mowed and my car is making a “funny noise”.
Do you have enough hours in the day? Enough days in the week? Are you making enough money? Yea… all the firemen I know are filthy RICH! How about your runs? Seeing anything that bothers you? Hungry, low income children. Do ya see people you want to help and cant?
Get closer to home How many games have you missed due to pulling a tour? How many birthdays, holidays etc? How many times have you been pulled between you’re “firehouse family” and your family at home?
It’s an up hill battle…. “stairs to climb” and it comes with the job. Over worked, under paid, seeing people in the worst conditions, sacrificing ourselves and our families for complete strangers . .. why? Because it’s a calling … It’s OUR CALLING!
The bad news is that there are plenty of steps. They keep going up and up. My good friend and West Coast Brother Joe Schmoe must feel like he’s on an escalator. He called last week and I knew something was heavy on his mind. He didn’t get the chance to tell me but I know what it is. Cold feet. Schmoe is nearing retirement (as in about a month away). He’s been climbing those stairs so long, he doesn’t know how to stop. He’s not sure if he wants to. I hope he finds a peaceful landing to catch his breath. I know he will but I also know that his heart and soul is in that stairway. The same one we are all climbing. Not unlike the ones that collapsed on our brothers back in 2001.
That’s why I’m climbing Thursday. Because of firemen before me like my dad and Captain Joe Schmoe who have made their climb. I’m climbing because if any of those 343 Brothers lost on September 11, 2001 were here today, I’d guarantee they’d miss or sacrifice whatever to be right there in those stairways again.
Thursday, they will be. They will be in a stairway in Baltimore Md. They will be in my mind and I WONT MISS A SINGLE STEP !!
I’ll update ya from the road… until then, stay safe and in house!
Much like the The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster back in January of ’86, that evening in July of 1969 when man walked on the moon or that November day in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated, Americans will remember EXACTLY where they were and what they were doing on on September 11, 2001.
That day, I got a call from my dad (who was still on the job at the time). I rushed over to our shop. Together, we watched in horror as the terrorist attacks played out. We watched the towers come down and knew firemen had died … we just didn’t know how many.
Soon, the names al-Qaida and bin Laden was on every TV channel and news paper to be found. Given the opportunity, I could and would have killed him with a Q-Tip or hand full of cotton balls … whichever would have taken the longest and caused the most pain / suffering.
I’ve waited almost 10 years to hear that this piece of shit is dead!
I was on duty Sunday night when word got out. Rhett (Rhett Fleitz ..aka The Fire Critic) called to tell me to turn the TV on. Minutes after, we caught an EMS run … it was around mid-night. When we cleared from the run, dispatch asked me if I could give her a phone call and I did.
She wanted us to know the news. “If you get back to the station, turn on the TV …the President is going to announce that they’ve killed bin Laden”. Her thoughts went to FIREFIGHTERS. She knew we would want to know! I stayed up most of the night watching the coverage.
I was happy … happy, excited and thankful that we finally got him. My thoughts quickly moved to our Brothers and Sisters of the FDNY and the families of those murdered on 9/11. I knew that we would share in the joy of bin Laden’s death but also knew that the events would have them reliving the pain of that day all over again. I could only hope that the happiness found in his death would trump the pain and sorrow.
Some folks can’t understand how anyone can be happy about killing someone. If you’re one of those folks, maybe you shouldn’t be reading this. “Happy” really doesn’t describe how I feel…. it’s even more than that.
I think Bill Kennedy (and many others) feel the same way. Bill is retired from the FDNY and now lives down here on Smith Mountain Lake. Bills son, Tom; was murdered on 9/11 in the South tower having responded in on Ladder 101. That’s Tom Kennedy pictured on the left.
Mr. Kennedy had 2 good quotes in this morning’s local paper ….
“That son of a bitch is in the right place, and you can quote me on that”
“I know where he’s going, and it’s not up”
Read the entire article from The Roanoke Times HERE or more local coverage HERE . You can visit Firefighter Thomas Kennedy’s Memorial Page HERE. I’ll also add this local video of an interview with the Kennedys ….
I’ve watched today as more and more details of the events around bin Laden’s death emerged. My emotions turned to wonder and anger. Actually, at one point; I was just plain MAD!
The Roanoke Times is reporting that following his death, bin Laden’s body “was washed in private by two Muslim members of the U.S. military, wrapped in a white sheet, placed in a weighted bag and slid into the water from the deck of the USS Carl Vinson to the recitation of religious remarks by a U.S. officer that were translated into Arabic” .YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!
How many empty caskets did we bury? How many pieces of clothing, uniform or DNA substituted for the bodies of our fallen and this ass hole (bin Laden) gets a funeral? Washed him .. wrapped him and said words! I gotta say .. that chaps my ass! I would have strung the body up at Ground Zero.
That’s another point .. I WANT TO SEE THE PICTURES. Hell, I want to see the video. Put all the conspiracy theories to rest now.
Ok… I’m getting wound up here…. let me change directions.
photo from The Radio Patriot
To the U.S. Navy Seals and all of the men and women of our armed forces THANK YOU !
Thank you for continuing to look, for continuing to fight and for not forgetting.
WELL DONE !
Keep up the good work because I’m afraid this thing is far from over. All the questions with Pakistan and what they did or didn’t know. Bin Laden was just the leader … his army of terrorist are still out there and without a doubt wanting to avenge his death.
Teague Kenny has a great article over on ” The Tail Board “. Check out his post Gettin’ Ready .
He’s right boys … keep your boots close, pack an extra bag, keep that equipment checked and in top shape. Get your nose in a book .. study procedures etc … plan … study. Be smart, THINK … keep your eyes open. I know you are but … BE READY!
I’m gonna stop here for now. I could go on and on but my mind is working faster than I can type and I’m afraid it wont come out right. I get a 13 day break starting in the morning. I have special dinner plans tomorrow night (that I will post about) and head out to California on Friday. I’ll check in and finish my thoughts on this post as soon as I get the chance.
I think I may be in a “slump”. Now, I’ve never been the articulate type (yea.. I used a “big” word) but usually, I get my point across. I don’t know why but a lot of the folks I’ve met through this site say they love it because of my style of writing. I write like I talk. I “shoot from the hip” and say what I feel. The mis-spellings and poor grammar add to the allure.
I posted yesterday on the “ Fukushima 50” and I’m afraid I didn’t get my point across. Either that or some of you took it wrong.
I haven’t received ANY feedback and that’s strange. I always get an e-mail or 20 saying I’m dead on or an idiot. This post… nothing. That and only 4 FaceBook “shares”. If you will, allow me a few minutes (lines) to “set the record straight” and make sure I’m sending the right message.
Japan and the Japanese people are facing a horrible tragedy. I did not and will not belittle their situation. The story and articles I focused on were concerning 50 workers from a nuclear plant. About 800 were evacuated … sent out while 50 volunteered to stay behind and do what they could to stabilize the situation. I don’t know their “official” jobs or titles but would bet some are firemen (one article spoke of them using firefighting equipment in efforts to cool the reactors / fuel etc).
These men and women are true HEROS. Nobody can doubt or argue that point. Where I wanted to go with last night’s post was that these folks have always been there. They were heroes before the earthquake or tsunami ever hit. I’d bet they were willing to give their life for their profession long before last week.
It’s that fact that got me thinking of September 11, 2001 and every brother and sister on the job in America today.
It takes a disaster such as Japan’s for the media to “pick up on” the dedication some of us have for our jobs. The commitment . Our duty. 50 people with this type of dedication make national headlines while we have over 1 million firefighters at the ready to do just the same in America today.
WikiAnswers reports that in 2007 the U.S had 1,148,800 firefighters at the ready. I’m sure that today, those numbers are even higher.
It saddens me to think about that and how we are so quickly forgotten. You wont find a U.S. headline stating how many members we have at the ready to pay the ultimate sacrifice if need be. No …. we have no disasters here … no terrorist attacks. We’re not needed or thought about by the masses right now.
Our headlines are of money sucking union monsters. It’s now OUR fault that we are in the economic shape we are. How did this happen? Again, I never wanted to take away from the Fukushima 50 … it was just ironic to me … almost deshavu. Heroes today … forgotten tomorrow.
As I said in yesterday’s post, it wasn’t just the story but the pictures as well. Those guys walking out of the plant in their suits .. like out of the gates of hell. I remember the shots of our FDNY brethren walking out of the ash clouds… the rubble.
The aerial shots of the reactors and plant. I didn’t (couldn’t) find the pic I wanted to use but back in 2001, the post (or somebody) used a similar shot of Ground Zero before the collapses. The trail of smoke from the towers …. it was all just too eerily similar for me.
The Fukushima 50 are true heros. They always have been. I hope their pay and benifits have reflected such dedication. I hope their families are, have been and will be taken care of. I hope they haven’t had to bite, spit, fight and struggle for every and anything they have EARNED. I hope the people who allowed and placed them in these positions thought enough of them to give them a collective voice in decisions pertaining to their lives.
Again, I never meant to take away from the situation they face. I only hope it doesn’t worsen. I hope that folks like the Fukushima 50, Japan’s firefighters, EMT’s, Doctors etc don’t face the fading feeling of worth that we have following the 9-11 attacks. My thoughts and prayers have been and remain with the Japanese people as well as with those involved with rescue and humanitarian efforts.
I hope that made sense.
Ok, Firefighter Netcast. Tonight, my good friend and Fire Service Leader Chris Naum will be live with his regular Netcast show Taking it to the Streets
Tonight’s show begins at 9pm est. and is titled “Near Miss Reporting and one Captain’s Close Call“ .
I brag a lot about Chris and his work and can assure you that you wont want to miss tonight’s special 2 hour show. The show is live and has a call in number. Chris, Firefighter Netcast and I encourage you not only to listen to the show but to also become a part of it by calling in. The show also has a “chat room” where plenty of “off air” debate and discussion occurs. TRUST ME ….. TAKE THE TIME TO TUNE IN!
You all know by now that we play in the National Public Safety Football League. We need to FILL THE STANDS. The game starts at 3pm at Salem Memorial Stadium. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children. Remember …. all the money goes to great causes .
I’ll be meeting Chicago at the airport on Friday. I will get them settled in and assure they are comfortable and have everything they need. Then, I’ll see if I can get em out to a local “watering hole” and keep em out all night. That way, they’ll feel like crap on Saturday LOL. This outta be good!
Anyway, please make plans to attend the game. We will have dancing girls, cheer leaders and the works. We have a GREAT program put together and are still selling our gun raffle tickets (Kelly Grayson … why haven’t you bought yours yet????) The weather is supposed to be in the 70′s so make plans to bring the entire family…. I’LL SEE YA THERE!
I’ll check back as soon as possible. Until then, stay safe and in house!
You folks may remember, back in early October; Rhett Fleitz and John Mitchel of Firefighter Netcast let me tag along for another recording gig. We went to Emitsburg Maryland for the 2010 National Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial Weekend. Read one of my post from the trip HERE. I had never before been. WOW! I carry the memories and feelings of that weekend with me still today (much like those of Marching with my FDNY Brothers from 39/16 in the NYC St. Patty’s Day Parade in March 2002).
I am not articulate enough to describe the feelings that I took from either event but I will say that I know I will carry them for my life. At the NFF weekend, our job was to record live interviews of the surviving families with Dave Statter. They sat and spoke candidly of their lost loved ones. We knew our job was important … we had no idea how hard and touching it would be.
We laughed and cried with the survivors as they recalled certain stories of the fallen. We interviewed survivors from recient LODD’s and some from as far back as September 11, 2001. All are etched in my mind but a few will stand out. The Kelly family, Survivors of Lt.Kevin M. Kelly of the Boston FD Ladder 26; opened up as if Lt. Kelly was standing there and throwing it back and forth.
The 2nd interview that stands out was one of our very first. Dave sat down with Kelly Walesh and her daughter Lexus who are survivors of Wisconsin Firefighter Stephen ‘Peanut’ Koeser. After seeing and hearing Lexus talk of the loss of her father, we knew that we had “something special” and that it was going to be very difficult to endure 2 days of these interviews. Here they are..
Kelly and Lexus were followed that weekend by a TV crew who documented their story as part of a TV segment on Volunteer Firefighters. That show will air this morning at 9am (EST) on the CBS Sunday Morning Show.
Stop what you’re doing and tune in or set the DVR right NOW…. 9 am Sunday (today) on CBS.