At 0846 Tuesday September 11th, the United States took a hit on the north tower of the World Trade Center. At 0903 a second passenger airliner slammed into the south tower.
The Battalion Chief assigned to Battalion 1 witnessed the impact of the plane from the corner of Church and Lispenard Streets. He immediately signaled a second alarm and proceeded to the World Trade Center. En route, B1 requested additional resources by transmitting a third alarm at 8:48 a.m.
I was driving to school for the first time, the attacks happened the day after my 16th birthday. Anybody that has followed me personally on Station Pride knows I’m 4th generation. I was born into this. I’m bred to help people. Even as early as 1995 when I was 9 years old, I could feel the urge to help the victims of the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing. I’ve had the desire to serve my entire life it feels like.
My story isn’t much different than many firefighters around the world. Almost all firefighters know when that switch flipped, they remember when they made that decision to pursue what I personally believe is the greatest career there is.
We watched TV the whole day at school on 9/11. I witnessed on national TV as the second plane turned and slammed into the building. It wasn’t until 2005 that my fire service career started, and when it started I was in the generation of firefighters that were labeled the “post 9/11 firefighters”. That label has driven me for years, to prove throughout my career thus far that I am in this for more than the firefighter title. I did not start this career to get the attention we all saw the FDNY receive after they lost so many brothers in one single incident. It has driven and motivated me for 10 years now.
In 2013 I found and decided to attempt the Dallas 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. 110 floors, full gear and SCBA. Climbing with 343 firefighters, 70 police officers. It’s a humbling experience too because no matter how prepared you think are, it’s not enough. The stair climb starts early in the morning. Participants get to the staging area early, get signed in and then get unto their groups. It’s eerie quiet at first, at the base of the 55 floor building we’ll be climbing. As the crowd grows we all begin to either relax or our nerves make us start to get “loose” meeting fellow brother and sisters. A little closer to start time we dress in our gear, just like we do day in and day out but this time it’s different. This time it’s for a cause and it’s emotional. When it’s time we walk out of the staging area. We gather in the street at the base of the building and we listen to speakers, we pray, we say the pledge. We wave and take pictures. Then it starts.
The goosebumps hit, the nerves in your gut get a little worse and your eyes get a little wet. The group piles into a line, we circle in front of the stage the speakers were just on, make a left and then we have an opportunity to lay a hand on a piece of red iron from one of the towers. That water in your eyes get a little thicker, there’s a ball in your throat fighting for space with your heart in the same place, the pipes and drums still playing, right next to you. You can feel the drums in your chest.
As you pass the red iron from the tower you enter the building. That’s the last time most of the people there to support “their firefighter” will see them until the end. That’s when it hits you that you aren’t doing this for you, your climbing because they climbed. FDNY firefighters climbed and climbed, floor after floor helping people out of those towers. Climbing further to reach the floors in which they had no idea if there were survivors or not. Without hesitation and unselfishly they climbed. Knowing full well the dangers, knowing the structural integrity has been greatly reduced. They climbed to help people they have never met before, and may never see again after a few moments in a stairwell. They climbed to their death, doing a job that is in the heart of every firefighter.
“We climb because they climbed.”
“Late one night, when we were all in bed,
Mrs. O’Leary lit a lantern in the shed.
Her cow kicked it over,
Then winked her eye and said,
“There’ll be a hot time in the
old town tonight!”
On October 8th 1871 in Chicago, in a barn on the west side, a cow was made famous. “Daisy” (the milk cow) caught the blame for knocking over a lantern and starting “The Great Chicago Fire.” History has been proven to have holes in the story, so to know whether ole’ daisy was at fault or not is indeterminable. What we do know is, the fire department at the time was exhausted from an approximate four-block fire earlier in the day, add to that errors in judging, delaying in signaling the alarm, resulted in a much-delayed fire department response, poor “Daisy”.
At the end of the 3-day fire, 2000 acres, 17000 homes had been destroyed and 300 people were dead.
At the same time, just a day before, in a place a couple hundred miles north of Chicago named Peshtigo, Wisconsin was another, less-known fire. Not just a fire, but it labeled in many literary information locations as a “Firestorm”.
Peshtigo was a saw mill town. A town very vulnerable to fire due to its heavy timber structural members in most buildings. Once considered on of the largest wood products factories in the United States (sounds like the inside of a match box to me), the town was comfortable, the residents were comfortable, even with a layer of dust on everything, the roads were covered in saw dust too.
On October 7th, 1871 a blaze started in an unknown exact location in a very dense wooded location around a smaller area known as “Sugar Bush”. As the fire grew and eventually spread through “Sugar Bush”, every resident was killed by the blaze. The natural living conditions of a saw mill town in that time, combined with a weather condition at the time that not only presented with high winds but swirling, inconsistent high winds. Flames were reported to have been 1000 feet tall, miles wide and temperatures reaching 2000 degrees with stories of trees literally exploding into flames.
On October 8th 1871 the fire, reported to have been, unexpectedly, spread to the town of Peshtigo without warning. approximately 200 folks died in a single tavern. residents died from drowning as they fled into local rivers, some said to have even boiled to death in water tanks. the burnt result of the blaze made it necessary to have at least one grave of 300+ people due to families not being able to recognize their family members.
Peshtigo firestorm would be labeled as the “Deadliest Fire in U.S. History”.
The result of these 2 fires was more strict building codes, and code enforcement. along with better, more efficient fire alerting systems. Water pumping abilities.
These fires were essential in the growth of the American fire service to adapt and overcome. it posed the forever question of “How can we serve our people better?”
The Hartford circus fire, which occurred on July 6, 1944, in Hartford, Connecticut, was one of the worst fire disasters in the history of the United States. The fire occurred during an afternoon performance of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus that was attended by 6,000 to 8,000 people. 167 people died and more than 700 were injured.
In mid-20th century America, a typical circus traveled from town to town by train, performing under a huge canvas tent commonly called a “big top”. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus was no exception: what made it stand out was that it was the largest circus in the country. Its big top could seat 9,000 spectators around its three rings; the tent’s canvas had been coated with 1,800 pounds (820 kg) of paraffin wax dissolved in 6,000 US gallons (23,000 l) of gasoline, a common waterproofing method of the time.
The fire began as a small flame after the lions performed, on the southwest sidewall of the tent, while the Great Wallendas were performing. Circus bandleader Merle Evans was said to have been the first to spot the flames, and immediately directed the band to play “The Stars and Stripes Forever“, the tune that traditionally signaled distress to all circus personnel. Ringmaster Fred Bradna urged the audience not to panic and to leave in an orderly fashion, but the power failed and he could not be heard. Bradna and the ushers unsuccessfully tried to maintain some order as the panicked crowd tried to flee the big top.
The cause of the fire remains unproven. Investigators at the time believed it was caused by a carelessly flicked cigarette; however, others suspected an arsonist. Several years later, while being investigated on other arson charges, Robert Dale Segee (1929–1997), who was an adolescent roustabout at the time, confessed to starting the blaze. He was never tried for the crime and later recanted his confession.
Because of the paraffin wax waterproofing of the tent, the flames spread rapidly. Many people were badly burned by the melting paraffin, which rained down from the roof. The fiery tent collapsed in about eight minutes according to eyewitness survivors, trapping hundreds of spectators beneath it.
Most of the dead were found in piles, some three bodies deep, at the most congested exits. A small number of people were found alive at the bottoms of these piles, protected by the bodies on top of them when the burning big top ultimately fell down. Because of a picture that appeared in several newspapers of sad tramp clown Emmett Kelly holding a water bucket, the event became known as “the day the clowns cried.”
Resourced straight from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hartford_circus_fire
The word dash has many different meanings. It can mean to run, or travel somewhere in a hurry. It also means a small quantity of a substance or even to ruin or frustrate.
The dash I want to talk about is that which is found between two dates in time. We have all seen the dash after someone has passed away. Their birth date, a dash, and then the day of their death. When someone retires from a job or profession, their start date will be listed followed by a dash then the date they retired. That dash represents what they did while they were on this earth or at their job/profession.
I want to talk about the fire service dash and what your dash says about you when your page has turned. We all entered this job for different reasons, some began because it was a civil service test, some entered it for the schedule, some wanted in for the excitement and some just entered the job to help people and make a difference. No matter why you signed up for this profession, we all need to stop and think about the dash that will be put between our dates. The day you started this job, the dash was stamped. It doesn’t matter if you only worked one year or forty years, you have a dash. The dash represents the present, the here and now and the time between start and finish. When your time comes, and they stamp that end date on the right side of your dash, how will people remember you?
This article is geared toward your fire service dash, but the same can be said about the dash for your personal life. When you retire or answer your final alarm, how do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be remembered as the firefighter who did just enough to get by or the firefighter who was never happy, or The firefighter who was lazy, or the firefighter who just wanted a paycheck? We should all want our dash to represent hard work, dedication, a love for the job and Brotherhood, just to name a few. We should all strive to let our dash leave this job better than we found it.
I think about some of the greats in our profession that have retired or have been taken from us. We still talk about those individuals today because of their dash. We pass on the skills and knowledge found in their dash. The greats who came before us left their dash as an example to be followed. They set the bar.
The nice thing about your dash is that you can choose the outcome and make changes. We have no control over the date to the right of the dash, but we have full control of the dash. Every day that we wake up and go to work, we need to remember that this is the best job in the world. We also need to remember that we have fellow firefighters, new firefighters, officers watching us to see what our dash is going to be. Some may have short dashes and others may have longer dashes, but the key is to make every second in this job count because we never know when that final date will be stamped. We need to check ourselves often and ask, Am I doing all I can do, am I being the best firefighter I can be and am I leaving this job better than I found it?
We each have control over the here and now so let’s make sure we do everything we can to preserve the tradition of the fire service, pass on the craft and let our passion shine bright. In closing, I would say that we all need to ask ourselves what our dash will say. Stay safe brothers/sisters and remember just like crops, we must cultivate our training if we want it to grow.