Posts Tagged ‘brothers and sisters’
By Diane M. Watson
When the towers fell I was on temporary duty in Central California with my regular job.
I desperately wanted to get back to my fire station in Lake County. as a volunteer firefighter for many years I was part of the brotherhood and sisterhood you hear about that comes with the fire service.
the nation was in mourning; the fire service was stunned. So many lives lost, so many fallen brothers and sisters.
in the days that followed, every single firefighter I know wanted to run to new York City to assist in any way they could to rescue and recover their brothers.
the final count was 343 fallen firefighters.
as I remember the events of 10 years ago the emotion that wells up in me is raw. Most of us memorialized the tragedy with tattoos. Some adorned themselves with American flags, Maltese crosses with flames and names of engine companies. my Sept. 11 tattoo is on my chest; it depicts my structure helmet with Station 70 on the front, pickaxes crossed behind it, the words “Bravery, Honor, Sacrifice” and of course, flames.
as I hold back tears I recall the amazing community outpouring when we stood on Lakeshore Drive in uniform on the one-year anniversary. with our boots in hand we raised money for the widows and orphans of FDNY.
People emptied their wallets and dumped coins from their ashtrays. One woman recalled that we responded to her house for an emergency involving her young son. she dropped what money she had in my boot and gave me a hug. my brothers on the street experienced the same gratitude from our community all over town.
the tragedy brought people together, in love and in appreciation for life.
Our fire captain at the time, Willie Sapeta, was a strong leader and swift to pull our ranks together across the county, appropriate money for weapons of mass destruction response training, coordinate efforts with law enforcement and ensure that our rural first responders were as prepared as we could be.
Can anybody really be prepared for such a monstrous disaster? now a Battalion Chief, Sapeta says that there’s a “heightened awareness and increased vulnerability” since the towers fell. “We’re not just firefighters and first responders anymore. We’re disaster workers.” Firefighters are the first to respond to terrorist attacks, environmental emergencies, explosions, earthquakes, floods, bridge or roadway collapse, you name it.
in the wake of Sept. 11 the newly formed Department of Homeland Security provided grants to rural fire departments to use for training and equipment.
Sapeta was instrumental in making sure Lake County received a fair share of the grant money.
Sapeta said there is a higher respect among law enforcement and the fire service. “It was phenomenal how all the agencies pulled together.” especially today, 10 years later, all the county agencies including police, fire, animal control, fish and game, dispatchers and tribal police work together to save lives and protect property.
even as preparations for Sept. 11 ceremonies and memorial events planned for this weekend are ongoing, as a member of the county’s emergency management team; Sapeta says his focus is on “protection of the attendees.”
First responders suffered a great loss that day. Always loved, never forgotten, are the men and women who gave their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
even as our community stands in unity to remember the fallen, our local heroes await your call for service. they stand in bravery, honor, and sacrifice.
Diane M. Watson is a Supervisory Special Investigator for United State Department of Labor.