Have We Forgotten Our Duty Since September 11?

DUTY (du·ty) –noun

  • Something that one is expected or required to do by moral or legal obligation.
  • An action or task required by a person’s position or occupation.
  • A task or chore that a person is expected to perform.

SERVICE (serv·ice) –noun

  • An act of helpful activity; help; aid: to do someone a service.
  • The duty or work of public servants.

VALOR (val·or) –noun

  • boldness or determination in facing great danger, esp. in battle; heroic courage; bravery: a medal for valor.

At no time in the fire service’s history were the above words better personified than on September 11, 2001 when 343 FDNY firefighters gave their lives to save thousands during the attacks that day.

A bittersweet day, 9/11 not only made America proud of its firefighters but it made our job, already one of the most proud and respected professions, a little more profound.

The entire world watched as FDNY firefighters climbed the towers, in full gear and with ALL necessary equipment.  Memories, video and pictures from that day remind us of the overwhelmed, but determined look on the face of many of New York’s bravest, many of whom gave their last wishes to friends and colleagues before they went in to the towers.

According to NIST, an estimated 17,400 people were inside the Towers at the time of the attack.  Of the 2,606 civilians who died, 1366 were at or above the point of impact and subsequent fire, leaving 16,034 presumably “viable” rescues to be made by FDNY.  1,240 additional civilians would perish at the World Trade Center.  In all 14,794 civilians survived the attacks on the World Trade Center. (1)

  • Approximately 43 civilians were saved for every FDNY LODD.
  • 3.6 civilians died for every FDNY LODD

Their altruistic effort demonstrated duty, service and valor in their purest forms and could only be described EPIC.

According to the 2009 NFPA reports, “Fire Loss in the United States during 2009” and “Firefighter Fatalities in the United States- 2009”, respectively, there were 3,010 civilian fire deaths in structure fires and 17 firefighter deaths in structure fires in 2009.  This equates to approximately 177 civilian deaths to every one firefighter death.

In my opinion, what is startling about this is that I routinely read, see and hear people speaking AGAINST primary searches.  Some say “searching without a hoseline is too dangerous” while others believe that the products of combustion are too toxic for survivability.  I also routinely see and hear people complain about carrying tools.  WHAT?

  • First of all, we don’t know what REALLY is going on inside a burning building… unless we go inside.
  • Second, it IS NOT our job to judge who lives and who dies.  It IS our job to search TENEBLE or BORDERLINE AREAS to try and save life; NOT condemn people to death.
  • Lastly, it is our duty to SERVE THE PUBLIC.  We have the gear, we have the training, we have the intestinal fortitude to go in and get it done.  If you lack any or all of the above, the private sector is always an option.

We have transitioned into a time where the children of 9/11, the kids who were in elementary school in 2001, are enlisting to fight the war that was started that day.  They are willing to risk, even sacrifice, their lives for their country and their fellow soldiers because it is their DUTY.  They are choosing to SERVE their country and continue to demonstrate VALOR in the face of an ever-changing enemy.  Sound familiar?  THEY HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN.

REMEMBER. Remember how you felt the day you saw our brothers charging in to the Towers.  Remember how you felt when you watched them fall.  Remember how your community supported and cherished you for what you do.  Remember that it is our selfless duty to serve the public and, if necessary, act with valor to save savable lives and property even if we have to risk our own life.

Whatever you do…NEVER FORGET!

Bonus Word:

ALTRUISM (al·tru·ism) –noun

  • The principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others


(1)         Wikipedia

(2)         NFPA Report on “Fire Loss in the United States during 2009”

(3)         NFPA Report on “Firefighter Fatalities in the United States- 2009”

(4)         All definitions are from www.dictionary.com

1 Comment

  • Ken Scofield says:

    Thank you for posting this article! I have felt this way for a very long time, and I agree that there is too much guessing going on “oh well, if anyone is in there, they’re already dead”. I heartily second you thoughts, and wish you the best.

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