This particular brotherhood is an exclusive group.
For the last several weeks, and for the next several days, you will see hundreds of thousands of Facebook posts, blog posts, news articles and tweets about September 11th. Everyone has memories associated with that day, and the days that followed.
There is no doubt that the impact of September 11th goes well beyond any single person, or fire company, or firehouse, or city, or state. The original attack may have been on New York City and the Pentagon, but those events; plus the failed hijacking that ended in Pennsylvania, united a country and bonded us in a common cause. September 11th, like a rock thrown into the middle of a smooth pond, has caused ripples that have gone on to affect all of us.
When you really sit down and think about it, it is almost too much to comprehend. In these last few days I have seen news articles and video of ground zero that have made me realize how little of that day I actually understand. The fire service has taken ownership of that day on some levels. There is a strong bond nationwide and internationally that stems from the sheer number of Brothers that were lost that day. 343 brothers; never before had so many firemen been killed at one time and it isn’t until you actually try to break that down and under it that it becomes too big to wrap your head around.
But for me it has always been about the brothers. The personal connections from those that worked shoulder to shoulder with those that are no longer with us. It is about those brothers that know they were “at the mercy of the chart” as to whether or not they responded, and those that often say they would trade place with those that are lost.
September 11th is about those brothers that in the days and months that followed spent hundreds of hours looking for their brothers. They came to work and stared blankly at the lockers of their friends, knowing that those lost would never come back, but also knowing that not finding them was far too much of a burden to bear.
Imagine those fireman, that on September 10th were convinced they had the best job in the world, and on September 12th had to return to a firehouse and face the memories of all those lost. Those memories, that were forged in the blood, sweat and tears of one of the most hazardous and rewarding professions.
Now imagine those same brothers, after spending hundreds of hours on “the pile”, fighting a battle for their own lives. Fighting cancer and respiratory issues, fighting to have the government recognize that that fateful day made them sick.
Through no choice of their own, our brothers in the FDNY become synonymous with September 11th. Their efforts on that day saved thousands, their sacrifice inspired millions, and their commitment to their brothers is without equal.
So when you ask me what that day is about, I say it is about them.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Whittington/FITHP.net