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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Never forget

Inworld tribute center and stair climb

 As many of you may know, I am a 911 Dispatcher for Fire and Medical in RL. I have the honor of working beside some of the best men (and a few woman) I have ever had the opportunity to know. My dog recently accidentally broke one of my barn yard ducks legs and having no avian veterinarian in the area, much less a vet who would bother with a duck, I made the 30 minute drive down to one of my stations to ask for assistance with splinting the poor little boogers leg. The boys had him splinted and me much relieved in less time than the drive took. They didn't mock or harass me for bothering with the duck, just fixed him up and petted him. As I watch out the window my little duck merrily hops around my yard less than a week later with his flock during his "ducky rehab time" I can't help but be thankful to these guys for taking care of him. Although not a real emergency for anyone but me and the ducky, they still took the time to treat him and not just say he needs to be put down (or into the cooking pot) 
     When I logged into Second Life today, there was a message and a picture in one of the groups saying Happy Twin Towers Day. I must admit I saw a cloud of red and responded that was not cool. A few of the group members quickly agreed and I decided to mute this asshole before a full scale brawl broke out and I myself was booted from the group.  There was nothing "Happy" about that day. Nothing happy about the 343 firefighters who lost their lives, nothing happy about the woman left to raise their children alone after such a tragedy, nothing happy about the after mass of this horrific event and nothing happy about the lives that continued to to lost due to the hazardous materials inhaled during clean up and the war to protect our country.
    Yes today I'm somber, remembering friends and family in the Pentagon as are many of us also remembering that day.  I mostly remember doing something very unusual for me-praying. Praying to God for my recently married and very pregnant sister-in law while we stood by helplessly waiting for news. Praying to God not to do this to her again as she had already raised a daughter into her teens alone and had finally after so many years alone found someone to walk beside her in life.  The days following September 11th were a nightmare blur for what was left of my family. The funerals and memorial services seemed never ending. The American Flag draped over caskets and watching grown men break down was beyond me. By the end of October of that year I had packed up and left Maryland. There was no one there for me anymore, my current life and dreams ending that day as it did for so many of us.
     No one around me now knows of my previous life, But I have devoted the past six years of my life to the Fire Service and to schooling specifically in the Fire and Emergency Management field. I can't ever again sit by helplessly while disaster strikes those around me. September 11th changed many lives, drove many to find a place within the emergency field for many of the same reasons it drove me. Today I would like to share the words of my Fire Chief with you, in a speech given to a local school, to those of you who remember, and those of you who should.

This morning I had the opportunity to address the student body at the Sea Coast Collegiate High School at our local NW Florida Junior College campus.  I am always eager to speak to young people especially about what the SWFD does and our service to our community. Today was a little different as I awoke at about 4:30 a.m. thinking about what I could share with a group of kids that might have been too young to remember any of the events that occurred on September 11, 2001.  As I reflected on the day and how we all respectively remember where we were and stood with our crew at Station three and listened to the radio message this a.m.,  I shared the following that may help us all to “never forget” and help us all remind others what we do and how they too should remember as well.

As we remember 9/11/01, Americans are a family, all of us. You are my brothers and sisters that I will fight to protect forever - Family over adversity. Protecting our families and loving each other. That's why we do what we do. Compassion, love, courage, integrity, passion for what we do and what we see. The things that our average citizens and visitors don't think about. The things that make most people uncertain and crazy....that is our lives. We delve into this every shift. Every time we put on our uniform may be the last time we see our wives, our children, our families and friends. Why?  Because we live to save others. Because we are driven by compassion for others. Because we protect those who need us. We do it not for recognition, not for awards, not for self-gratification, but we were chosen by God to serve others. We are servants to those who call upon us.

“Never forget”, what does that mean?  Most of you were about three years old when on 9/11/01.  When you drive to school each day and you pass Padgett Park know that Timothy Padgett was a “local kid”  that went to school here, worked for SWFD and served his country, he loved life and loved serving others. He lost his life in Afghanistan serving our country. When you look at the picture that I passed around of my friend Andrew Fredericks, he too was a “hometown” kid from New York City where he worked and raised his family.  We taught seminars and classes to other firefighters, ironically enough on how to respond and work together to help our communities should a disaster strike.  He used to share with our students, "Because we love, we serve. Because we serve, people know we care." He too gave his life on the morning of September 11, 2001.

The most haunting sound I remember is the sound I heard after the collapse of the towers on the news stations. It’s was the chirping of the integrated motion alarms built into firefighters breathing apparatus.  They’re designed to alarm when there is no motion for more than 20 seconds; to alert fellow firefighters that one of their own isn’t moving and is injured. That sound was heard too many times that morning.  Three hundred and forty three firefighters were lost that day while conducting the largest rescue operation in the history of the fire service. They weren’t looking to be heroes, or trying to make a name for themselves. They didn’t care about the ethnicity or the religion or the politics of the people they were trying to help. They were helping their fellow citizens escape the mostly deadly terrorist attack in the history of the United States. As a result, many were saved that day because of their duty to act.
Ask any firefighter what the number 343 means to them, and you’ll get a variety of responses; but they’ll all echo the bravery and the selflessness that represents what is best about our nation.
A lot has changed in our world since 9/11. We view our community and our country differently, more protectively. As first responders, we worry more and train more now for biological, chemical, radiological and explosive attacks. We communicate among jurisdictions and agencies more effectively and implement structured plans known to first responders throughout the country utilizing an incident command system for small and large scale events to bring order and make things better in a chaotic and harmful event.
Out of one great tragedy came so many stories of so many people trying to save their fellow Americans; whether it was passengers trying to take control of a hijacked airliner, soldiers carrying their fellow service members out of the rubble of the Pentagon, or the 343 firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice. It is those stories that I will always remember, because those are the stories that makes our nation great. Follow their lead, do something significant in your life, contribute to your community and your country in a way that makes your family proud.  It is an honor to stand next to our SWFD members and to know my family is not confined to DNA alone, but to those who would selflessly give their lives so that others may live. We remain vigilant, we train hard to stay prepared and strong.

Remember to appreciate one another and love like there is no tomorrow. Because those we love may not come home tomorrow. And every 60 seconds we are unhappy is a minute of the joy of life we will never get back.

To our SWFD members- Thank you for what you do and your commitment to serve others, I appreciate each and every one of you!

Be Safe 

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