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A Village Remembers

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A Village Remembers - Page Text Content

S: "A VILLAGE REMEMBERS" 9/11/01 Firefighters' Memorial Monument Brockport, New York

BC: Written by Christopher R. Martin Firefighter

FC: " A Village Remembers... " | Brockport, New York | 9/11/01

1: INTRODUCTION In the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11, much has been written about that fateful day, and over time, I am sure more will find its way into the annals of history. This is not one of those writings. I was not there. I have no direct knowledge of the buildings, the terrorists, or their plan to attack thousands of innocent people as they reported to work on that bright fall Tuesday morning. I have no desire or inspiration to re-tell a story that has been told many times over on radio, television, in the newspapers or in a multitude of books. This is however, a story of how a volunteer fire department in a small village in western New York reacted, "responded" and set in motion a chain of events that would eventually claim "the Spirit of America" on what has become known as "Hallowed Ground" on a small plot of land, in front of a historic landmark, in our hometown. I am not real handy with a welding torch or a cement mixer, a back hoe or installing an electric service. I have never laid bricks or stones in concrete, but I seem to have developed a knack for telling a story in a way that people enjoy. When Scotty was putting together his committee to erect the dream of his lifetime, he selected people that could do all the tasks that I have mentioned; and from my vantage point, he placed a lot of emphasis on telling the story. He wanted the community to know, he wanted firefighters across the state to know, and he asked me to tell all of them about what we were doing. This is a story of how this all came together through sheer determination and teamwork. Christopher R. Martin, Public Information Officer | DEDICATION This book is dedicated to the man whose visions and dreams, whose drive and determination, whose ability to transform an idea from within the crevices of his ever-active mind to become this living memorial, shall forever leave a vast array of memories in the minds of those that helped create our "Firefighters' Memorial Monument". From September 12, 2001 when Scotty first saw the now famous Franklin photo (top left-front cover) come over the AP feed at the Gannett Newspapers in Rochester, NY, to the tragic day he left this earth on that cold winter evening in December 2003, Scotty worked tirelessly day in, and day out to insure that every detail was attended to. Without him, we surely would not have what has become known to firefighters and legislators, Mayors and Presidents, school kids and their parents across this great nation, as one of the finest tributes to the fallen heroes that were lost that fateful day. Scotty is gone, but one of his greatest accomplishments in the short time he shared with those of us in this world, stands at the entrance to this small village on the banks of the Erie Canal. Few of us leave as memorable a legacy as he has. It is one that shall serve as a reminder for generations to come, that Brockport, NY will "Never Forget" the lives lost in the terror attacks, or the life that was put here to erect just such a reminder. We miss you Scotty!

3: CHAPTER ONE September 11, 2001 I awoke to the alarm. It was five thirty in the morning and I was scheduled to work as an EMT for Monroe Ambulance in their Brockport rig at six o'clock. My partner was Jim Weaver, a paramedic who made every day you worked with him an adventure. Jim was also a firefighter with our department. I had ordered new windows for my house and the Amish family that was installing them would be there about eight, so even without any ambulance calls, it looked like it would be a busy day. None of us had any idea what was in store for New York City, the World Trade Center, or the rest of the country for that matter. We stopped up to check on the men around nine o'clock. All the furniture was pushed up against the walls blocking all the TV's, so we didn't bother turning them on. The Amish folks are used to existing with no electric power, so no radio was to be had by them. All you could hear was them speaking among themselves about which window goes here and which window there. Jim and I had only our portable two-way radio and pagers, so everyone at my house was unaware of what was unfolding only miles away until Jim's cell phone rang. There was no hello. There was no "how are you?" or "where are you?" There was just a loud "Turn the TV on!" and I could hear that from across the room. I could hear Jim trying to explain that we couldn't get at the TV, and asking what was going on? All I could hear back was "Just turn the TV on!". We moved the furniture, and turned on the TV in time to see the second tower get hit, and the rest of the day is history. We couldn't believe what we were seeing, any more than our Country could. | As I recall, Jim and I were kept busy for the rest of the day. It was somewhat of a blur with all that was happening, and trying to process it and figure out what was yet to come. This was a devastating loss for the fire service in this country, and we were soon find out for the whole world. The losses in the towers of citizens from many countries abroad were felt by people from each of those countries, but the losses of three hundred and forty three American firefighters was suffered by our brethren everywhere, and that became evident to us and the survivors at FDNY in rapid fashion. Chris McCullough was our Deputy Chief. Greg Wing the Chief. Chris had seen the initial reports at home and reported to the firehouse to spend time with the guys and to see what was going on. Initially, we would never consider offering "Mutual Aid" to New York City. But, as the day wore on, and their desperate need for more help became evident, we did just that. If you were involved in emergency services at the time, or even if you weren't, you were hearing on the news, and in fire hall chatter that fire companies from all over the Country, and some from Canada were just packing up and heading for New York. Monroe County has always been more advanced and planful in their thinking and offers of help. This was no exception. The Fire Bureau asked all departments that were available to go, to provide a rough idea of equipment and apparatus that could be spared and numbers of firefighters at the ready. As a County, we would offer our aid to New York. The thought process paid off, in a manner of speaking. So many other companies and departments just showed up in NYC that they had to stage them off site until they were needed. We maintained our services locally at full strength until we received the call. The d | As you grow up, you hear older people tell you “I remember where I was when ” and you think, why would you remember that? Until something like this happens. Then you know. I know. I will always remember where I was and I am sure Jim Weaver, our generation and the rest of the country will always remember where they were too. As I recall, Jim and I were kept busy for the rest of the day. It was somewhat of a blur with all that was happening, and trying to figure out what was yet to come. This was a devastating loss for the fire service in this country, and we would soon find out for the whole world. The losses in the towers of citizens from many countries abroad were felt by people from each of those countries, but the losses of three hundred forty three American firefighters was suffered by our brethren everywhere, and that became evident to us and the survivors at FDNY in rapid fashion. Chris McCullough was our Deputy Chief. Greg Wing, the Chief. Chris had seen the initial reports at home and reported to the firehouse to spend time with the guys and to see what was going on. Initially, we would never consider offering “Mutual Aid” to New York City. But as the day wore on, and their desperate need for more help became evident, we did just that. If you were involved in emergency services at the time, you were hearing on the news, and in fire hall chatter that fire companies from all over the Country were picking up and heading for New York. Monroe County has always been more advanced in their thinking, planning and offers of help. This was no exception. The Fire Bureau asked all departments that were available to go, to provide a rough idea of equipment and apparatus that could be spared and numbers of firefighters available, and as a County, we would offer our aid to New York.

4: The thought process paid off, in a manner of speaking. So many other companies just showed up in NYC that they had to stage them off site until they were needed. We maintained our services locally at full strength until we received the call. The downside to it all; we were never summoned. September 12, 2001 In the early morning hours the following morning, newspapers everywhere were receiving their AP News feeds with copious amounts of photos and news of the previous days happenings. Rochester's Gannet newspaper was no exception. As the now famous photo of the three firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero in New York City came across the wires at the Democrat & Chronicle, something stirred within one of our Past Chiefs working there. He saw the image, the iconic reflection of what patriots wearing firefighters clothing did in the midst of the horror. This image started the wheels of Scotty's imagination turning. He asked himself, if our brethren faced with such devastation could stop what they were doing long enough to raise the American Flag, why not us? And the idea for our Monument was born. I was off that day and while we as a department had not been summoned to NYC, it seemed there was much to be done. The preparation for the call continued should they need us. The body count continued to climb as the wreckage was searched for any survivors that may lay in some crevice trapped beneath what was once the grand towers and the buildings surrounding them. | Deputy Chief McCullough was coordinating the efforts at our Headquarters station. There were more of our people around than usual. Some had taken time off from work. Others were just there at the ready. We were all still in shock over what happened and the helplessness shared in not being able to "fix it". After all, that is what we do when faced with the tragedies we are commonly called to. We rescue people, we put out their fires, we cut their cars open and take them to the hospital. We pump their basements and in most cases, we all make a difference in someone's life when we get the call to help. This was different. Only a few hours away, the largest loss of life in the fire service known to many of us had just occurred. We packed our bags, prepped our apparatus and mentally prepared to respond to aid our fellow firefighters, EMT's and Police Officers. When we were not needed, the frustration over the whole situation mounted. We needed something to be able to shed the frustration in a way that it would have meaning for us and them. Scotty provided just such an opportunity. In the days and weeks that followed he met with anyone he could think of that would provide aid and expertise to what he was then formulating as a plan for the triangle in front of Station #4 as you enter the Village. How does one transform an image they see in a newspaper feed into what has become our Monument? I have no idea. I am grateful that Scotty could, and did.

5: If you were Scotty and wanted to build a lasting memorial to honor the fallen heroes, where would you start. I have no idea either. What I do know is that in short order he had secured a renowned wood carver that lived in our Community. He had a local contractor that would engineer and provide the concrete base as their contribution to the project and he had a budget to create it. Now, all he needed was department support and the go ahead to make it happen. He had a plan. He was going to erect this memorial before the first anniversary of the attacks. The carving of the wood figures would take six months or more. First, the artist; Richard Kron, would have to find logs large enough to carve three life-size firefighters out of. The concrete base could not be started until spring. And there was the matter of thousands of dollars needed to support the project. To many of us, these may present as insurmountable tasks. To Scotty, they seemed to be reasons to get up in the morning and tackle them as though it were a high school football game against a formidable opponent. It was a challenge he was up for. | As the weeks wore on, with every passing day, he came closer and closer to making this happen. On a cool fall evening in mid-November, he brought his idea before the Fire Department Council. Some of those present were a little skeptical. I was one of them. I was the Treasurer and Public Information Officer at the time. There were not enough funds to support his budgeted expenses. He was not worried. He had a plan. And as he shared his plans for fund raisers, for corporate sponsors, for the people within our department that would step up and help him create this amazing memorial, I initially just sat there and rolled my eyes. However, by the time he finished his presentation, he had transformed my skepticism and that of others into supporters and participants. He just had that way about him. We still didn't have the money to build it, but similar to the snake oil salesmen of days gone by, He had sold us on a concept that would soon become a reality. The first press release was prepared on November 21st announcing our plans and asking for community support. The first paper to release it was the Tri-County Advertiser on Sunday, December 3rd and the first donation was received from photographic artist Helen Simpson that Wednesday. I knew then that Scotty had read our friends and neighbors better than I. My concerns were dissolving quickly as more support came our way. Hundreds of dollars were dropped in our boots as we conducted boot drives outside our Station #4 as passersby shared their coins and quiet money with our volunteers.

6: He got the approvals. He got the Artist on board. He had donations coming in faster than any of us would have imagined and the Goal Thermometer in front of the hose house was filling up. Scotty was the visionary I have described and to achieve his vision, he knew he would not be able to do it alone. He started tapping key individuals asking them to serve on the Monument Committee. He chaired the committee and his appointed crew consisted of Chris McCullough, Bob Coopenberg, Charlie McCullough, Dean Westcott, Dick Gillespie, Deb Hoy, Skip Dorgan, Kevin Johnson, Dave Snider and Bob Zobel. Their scribe was Scotty's wife Bonnie. He would bring home notes on scraps of paper from the meetings and Bonnie was able to transform them into minutes that made sense and share the information with the group. They met throughout the winter devising the methods and selecting the people needed to meet the deadline Scotty had set for them. Early on in their meetings, they realized that if they were to have a grand ceremony and unveiling, they would need a sub-committee to work on that and that alone. Scotty approached Norm Knapp, Larry Vaughan and me for that task. Norm would use his local and state wide contacts to enhance the day. Larry took care of logistics; bleachers, radios, EMS, water to cool the crowd and I took on the invitations, the media and ceremony planning. We sent full color invitations across the state and one to every fire station in the FDNY family.

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Christopher  Martin
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About This Mixbook

  • Title: A Village Remembers
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  • Started: about 5 years ago
  • Updated: over 4 years ago

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