Hurricane Sandy: 9/11 Memorial Visit (Part 3)

I’ve been busy over the holidays spending time with my loved ones, but I wanted to finish up the write-up about the last day of my recent trip to New York. We put in two full days of work, and collectively decided that we wanted to finish the trip on a more positive note. While the work we completed was very rewarding, it was depressing at the same time. It’s terrible to see the residents living in the situation they are, or having to live elsewhere because of their houses being destroyed. On Monday, it was our day to travel 11 hours back home. With a unanimous decision amongst our Tennessee crew, we decided to travel in to Manhattan and visit the 9/11 Memorial Site.

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I spoke with Gary, retired FDNY from 8Truck, about traveling in to the city on Monday morning. He warned me of the typical traffic jams, but assured me it would be well worth the trip. No one is our group had been to the 9/11 Memorial site before, so we knew it was something we needed to do.

I remember the guys that passed away on 9/11 on a daily basis. If it’s when I hang my gear on the truck at the start of my shift, if I catch a glimpse of the picture hanging in my living room, or if they cross my mind…I remember. I have participated in multiple 9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs in four different states now, and have developed a bond with many of the guys that responded to the World Trade Center that day.

Some of those guys survived and still ride the rig today, some of them have since retired, and some made the ultimate sacrifice.

We arrived at 8-Truck, the Ghostbuster house, around 9:30 in the morning. Brother Poulin had made a call to the crew to notify them we would be stopping by. They were great, and took us upstairs to have a cup of coffee. We made small talk about the recent tragedy in Connecticut as the news was on in the background. The guys discussed a little bit of history of their district and how it was mostly “movie stars and high rises” now days.

Our conversation was cut short as the horn went off, but I was able to toss Matt, the firefighter who showed us around, a coin on his way to the truck. It is just a simple gesture that I try to show them for taking time out of their day.

We headed up to the NY Firestore in Greenwich Village to buy a few things. Several of the guys bought their wives/girlfriends a few things, and about everyone bought a few shirts. We walked around the corner from the store to check out the quarters of Squad 18. There are only seven squad companies in FDNY, and you can click here for Squad 18’s website.

After our little walking “tour” of the area, we headed down to the Memorial site. As you approach the area, you can’t help but to notice the new “Freedom Tower” that is being built. There is still lots of construction going on in the area, and even pedestrian traffic is a nightmare.

Read Part 1 by clicking HERE, and read Part 2 by clicking HERE.

As I approached the two pools in the Memorial site, I couldn’t help but to try to keep my emotions in. In front of me were the names of all the men and women that gave their lives that day. The names were divided up by the different tragic sites that lost people that day, and I ventured straight towards the first responders. These are the men and women that I have read about, watched films about, and strive to remember.

I recognized many names on the walls that I have heard numerous times before. Amongst the familiar names were FF Steven Coakley, FF Stephen Siller, Chaplain Mychal Judge, Patty Brown, Andy Fredericks, David Fontana, and many others. I also found many of the firefighters that I have climbed in memory of at the stair climbs. The most recent being Lt. Gregg Atlas, E-10. I also have climbed for Peter Carroll, Joseph Angelini, Jr., Michael Clarke, and a few others.

It was a very emotional time for me to stand next to their names on the memorial. This is what is all about.

The Brotherhood. Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

I am glad that we were able to visit the site before leaving the city. We traveled 11 hours up the road to work along side people who were complete strangers with a common bond. The Steven Coakley Foundation was created in memory of one of those firefighters. They made the entire trip possible for us, and also should receive full credit for our work. I would not have had the pleasure to experience any of this if it wasn’t for several individuals sharing information about the need. Thanks for allowing me to be a part of the crew that was able to make a difference.