WOW ! Once again I find myself humbled and unsure if I will be able to tell this story and due it justice. The Fire Critic (Lt. Rhett Fleitz) and I have been in the Big Apple for the past couple days. We’ve traveled a lot together this year and each trip gets better and better.
We headed straight to the Bronx and the quarters of FDNY’s Engine 68 / Ladder 49. Two of our good friends and Brothers ( Nate DeMarse and Chris Collier) are stationed there. Nate knew we were heading up and told us to drop by for a visit. We are glad we did!
Nate was on duty and gave us an AWESOME tour of their house and rigs. I love being in FDNY firehouses, they are each full of exactly what Rhett and I stand for Brotherhood, Honor, Tradition and PRIDE !
They were getting ready for their annual Christmas party where all the members and their families come to the house to celebrate the Holiday Season together. They had Christmas decorations up everywhere … even on the Engine and Ladder.
We left 68/49 and made our way back to the hotel. We were cutting our time close and had a dinner to attend. Rhett was taking care of parking the van while I got the bags up to the room. I was on the phone with dad letting him know that we had arrived safe and sound when I walked over and opened the curtains…..
We were staying next to Ground Zero (Club Quarters, World Trade Center) but had no idea of the view we would have.
We had a perfect view of the Freedom Tower and Reflection Pools!
I can’t explain the emotions that came over me …. I had no idea that this would be the view when I pulled the curtains back. I was speechless.
I felt as if I couldn’t catch my breath. I had to end the call with dad while I stood there in silence trying to take in everything in front of me. I was overcome with emotion and wept.
Me, Rhett and Zach Green had been to New York not too long ago. We got an unbelievable personal tour of the Tribute Center by Co-founder Lee Ielpi. We also got to tour the Memorial but only from ground level. Seeing it from the 17th floor gave a whole different perspective.
When Rhett made it up to the room, he had a very similar reaction. The view alone had made this trip “worth it ” … we could have went home right then and been completely satisfied. I’m glad we didn’t because the trip continued on this great pace!
We changed quickly and headed out to dinner with Dave Statter and several other very good friends. It’s very humbling to travel and hang out with this group. Without saying who they are, I’ll simply say that this group of folks have dedicated their lives to helping / supporting Firefighters and they do a DAMN FINE job of it!
When you’re with a group of this caliber, we often find ourselves around some of the “big names” of the Fire Service. This dinner would be no exception.
Rhett and I found ourselves eating dinner with none other than the Commissioner and Chief of Department for the FDNY!
The Commissioner even said that he loved my mustache! We slipped him one of our “Brotherhood Chips” and he returned the gesture by giving us a FDNY Challenge Coin!
Dinner was GREAT and the conversation even better. Afterwards, we would hit a familiar “watering hole” of ours next door to FDNY’s 10/10. Once again, we bumped into some big names within the Fire Service.
Who would have imagined that we would bump into some of the men behind the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs?
Next thing we know, we are raising a glass and drinking beer with the likes of Oren Bersagel-Briese, Scott Eckels, Josh Smith, Brian Bush and Shawn Dunston!
These guys were a BLAST to hang out with!
We had a couple drinks and some more GREAT conversation. None of us wanted it to end so we haeded back to the hotel room for a night cap. Come to find out, they were staying in the same place!
Obviously, we talked about the Stair Climbs. And after seeing the view from our room, we decided to do a climb in the morning.
WHAT AN HONOR AND PRIVILEGE !
Not only to climb with these guys but to do it in the shadow of GROUND Zero!
Luckily, we had brought our helmets. We also brought the pictures of the men who Rhett and I have carried and climbed for in each of our past climbs.
You should all know by now that I climb in memory of Joey Angelini. I carry his picture in my turnout coat every day I’m at work. This morning, I would carry it again for another 110 stories.
They climb very much like Rhett and I … in silence, reflecting on why we are there … doing what we are doing.
It’s not about us … it’s about honoring those 343 men who were robbed of their opportunity to complete their climb back on September 11, 2001.
MURDERED … and I will never forget that. I carry that thought and memory with me every day .. on duty or not.
The climb was yet another experience and part of this trip that makes it unforgetable.
If you’re a fireman … a “TRUE” fireman (and I’m not talking about putting out fires or saving cats) and have never participated in a 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, YOU SHOULD! Only then will you understand.
It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done yet somewhere deep down, somewhere deep down in your soul and out of that stairwell, you find the strength the keep climbing. It transforms you. I was in that stairwell climbing but I was also somewhere far away. Sweating, out of breath and burning with pain yet at peace.
THANKS BROTHERS for inviting and allowing me and Rhett to share this “unofficial” 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb with you … IT WAS AN HONOR and like the 343 fallen, will be carried with me until I die!
So, that was 06:00. By 7:00, we were in the shower and changing to head out the FDNY Training Academy on Randall’s Island .
Dan was a HOOT!
With that deep New York Accent he told stories the entire way out…. AMAZING!
He knew we had climbed that morning but had no idea who I had climbed in memory and honor of. He got to telling stories about a past member from Rescue 1 who they called “sub-cellar”.
Turns out, he was talking about Joey Angelini. They called him “sub-cellar” because of the 2 and 3 story deep basements in his 1st due. Joey was always right down there in the middle of it … deeper than and below everyone else.
Out on the Island, the Commissioner paid us another visit. He wanted to come out and personally thank us for what we do.
He also brought those Challenge Coins I mentioned.
He didn’t just bring em …. he handed em out … PERSONALLY!
A CLASS ACT !
He could have had his aid do it but HE wanted to. He even took the time to pose for another picture.
WHAT A FACILITY !!!
These guys have a complete city built INSIDE a huge garage / barn / building…. INSIDE !!!
The tour was nothing short of amazing!
A great way to wind up our trip….
I have a ton more details and pictures to share but they’ll have to wait until tomorrow. It’s time for “Fire Boy” and me to get our butts back home.
I’m back on duty tomorrow so I’m sure I’ll get another post up … I’ll try to anyway. Special thanks to Dave Statter and Rhett for letting me “tag along ” … Thanks to everyone who took care of us while we were on the road … Brotherhood IS still alive and Rhett and I have no trouble finding it! We were HONORED to be in the presence of such amazing people once again.
Thanks for reading / following. I’ll add more pics etc to Face Book. Be sure to check em out and click the “LIKE” button while your there. Stay Safe and in House!