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June 19, 2014
By Jay Shaw

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June 19, 2014, Winnipeg - In 2011 I spent five days in New York City during the 10th anniversary of 9-11, celebrating and honoring the lives of 344 FDNY firefighters. If the number seems wrong, you’ll have to read on to figure out why. That trip changed me; changed the way I view the job, and how I feel about the job.

June 19, 2014, Winnipeg – In 2011 I spent five days in New York City
during the 10th anniversary of 9-11, celebrating and honoring the lives
of 344 FDNY firefighters. If the number seems wrong, you’ll have to read
on to figure out why. That trip changed me; changed the way I view the
job, and how I feel about the job.

Since 2011, a lot has changed at Ground
Zero. The new 104-storey One World Trade Center has been completed to
sit as the western hemisphere’s tallest building, reaching a height
of 1776 feet; symbolically, 1776 is the year the United States
declared independence.

 

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Today, more than 900 9-11 workers have
died from illnesses related working at Ground Zero in the months and
years immediately after the attack.. This number is being disputed,
of course, because billions of dollars in lawsuits and compensation
are at stake, as many people suggest the number is higher, while some
argue the proof is circumstantial and not evidence-based.

In all the darkness that exist in
figuring out the why, the how, and who of all things 9-11 there is
one ray of light that has come from this. In May, the 9-11-memorial
museum was completed, dedicated, and opened for the entire world to
explore. The museum (http://www.911memorial.org/museum)
is so many things to so many people, but what it is to me is the
absolutely best place for the world to understand what we do, and why
we do it. I am certain there is no place on earth that has more to
offer a firefighter when it comes to a deep understanding of what we
truly are, and, more importantly, how we are seen by others. The
definition of brotherhood lies in the bricks and mortar of this
museum, as it is still the final resting place for the human remains
of more than 1,000 victims.

When I found out the museum would open
in May I booked my tickets and decided to make my second trip to New
York City. This time I travelled with my 15-year-old daughter, and
while we saw so many other parts of the city, the highlight was being
an invited guest to preview the museum before it opened to the
public.

The museum sits seven floors under
ground, surrounding and encompassing the foundational remains of the
Twin Towers, where two beautiful refection ponds hold the names of
all 2,983 who died on Sept. 11, 2001. I know many of you have seen
Ground Zero, and some of you may have seen the smaller tribute World
Trade Center exhibit beside FDNY Ten house (www.tributewtc.org).
But if there were ever a pilgrimage for firefighters to make to pay
homage to those who were lost, and to celebrate our chosen profession
as a whole, this is it. Your journey will never be complete until you
have made it here.

 

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While I can show you pictures, I can’t
tell you the stories, and I just cannot do justice to what this place
is, for so many responders of all kinds. The museum tells a story,
and is a place for worship, a place for grieving and celebration. The
museum site itself is massive and a full day is required to take in
the reflection ponds, museum and other area sites such as Trinity
Church, Ten House, the memorial wall, and the tribute WTC museum
center.

The exhibits in the museum are
breathtaking, with movies, audio and timeline educational components
that pay respect to so many acts of heroism, bravery and compassion.
During my visit, there were Red Cross volunteers available for those
who required assistance, counseling, or just a person to talk to. It
does not matter where you are a firefighter, the emotional connection
to your job – and the lowest common denominator of why you do what
you do – lives in this museum. If you’ve ever wanted answers as
to why you go in, while other run out, if you have ever felt hopeless
when a call goes sideways, or if you’ve ever needed something –
anything – to inspire you to reach further, train harder, or
perhaps just someone you love to understand why, this is where you
will find your answers.

 

I will end by remembering Welles
Crowthers, whose parents were there with me on the 10th anniversary,
and still hold a place in my heart. Welles is the only person ever to
be given FDNY firefighter status posthumously for his acts of bravery
during the collapse of the South Tower, making him the 344th
FDNY firefighter who died that Tuesday morning.

His story is one of many that are
shared. You can see more here and you can read what I wrote about Crowthers back in 2011 here
(scroll down to Sept. 11): 

If you would like more information on
visiting NYC, all you have to do is contact me.


Jay Shaw is a firefighter and primary care paramedic with the City
of Winnipeg. Along with multiple fire and emergency services courses and
certificates, Jay holds a masters degree in disaster and emergency
management from Royal Roads University and is an independent education
and training consultant focusing on leadership, management, emergency
preparedness and communication skills. Contact him at
jayshaw@mts.net and follow him on twitter @disasterbucket

 

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