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Sept. 9, 2011 – Darren is flying out of the Calgary International Airport and meeting us at the hotel in downtown Manhattan. Phil and I have a slightly different method of travel.

September 9, 2011
By Jay Shaw

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Editor’s note: Winnipeg firefighter Jay Shaw, a regular contributor to Fire Fighting in Canada, heads to New York City today for the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Jay and his travel companions, Winnipeg firefighter Phil Kennedy and Calgary firefighter Darren Tomczak, will check in regularly.

Sept. 9, 2011 – Darren is flying out of the Calgary International Airport and meeting us at the hotel in downtown Manhattan. Phil and I have a slightly different method of travel. Imagine a tougher, more inspiring kind of road trip, than say City Slickers or Dumb & Dumber. Both of our wives needed the mini-vans to hall the kids around and Phil’s SUV is a gas hog; that left the Echo. My non-air-conditioned 2001 Toyota Echo served us well as we drove two and a half hours to the Grand Forks Airport. We are a frugal bunch, this firefighter brethren, but the savings on gas and flights will make up for the touristy gadgets my kids will look for in my suitcase when I return. Both of us are 6’1” and 230 pounds and wear our hair the same way (read: balder than Mr. Clean). Hey, if you can’t laugh at yourself, then this job isn’t for you. One of my many nicknames is Shrek, and Phil often gets mistaken for Uncle Fester from the Addams family.

Now that you have that awesome picture in your head, you can appreciate the humour in our mode of transportation, as we immediately argued over the music selection. I prefer country and current trendy radio music, while Phil likes rock. We managed to survive each other’s company and headed to Tim Hortons for some coffee. As I wrote this, our plane was scheduled to leave in half an hour. We will land at LaGuardia, where the trip starts with our first New York City cab ride. We are staying in Midtown east, which I am told is very close to Times Square and the theater district. If we had more time, catching a Letterman taping might be in the cards, but alas, no rest for the weary.

In all seriousness, as I sit in the airport writing this I can say that the significance of the trip was felt by the both of us when we told the U.S. customs official we were firefighters going to New York to pay our respects to the 343 firefighters who were killed on 9-11. The border guard had just returned from Ground Zero a few months ago and told us how inspiring his trip was. The officer then proceeded to scan our passports, and then he asked to inspect our trunk and flight boarding passes. With the latest CNN reports of a new possible terrorist attack in New York and Washington, we will all find a heightened security at the border for the next few days, as no one is innocent enough. We drove ahead, and for the next few seconds there was a silent clarity that put all the joking and humour aside. This 10-year anniversary of 9-11 has become more than simply a terrorist attack, rather a symbol of American and world freedom. It resonates with everyone, as we all have a story, regardless of whether you wear the Maltese cross. Firefighter or civilian, the “we” in we will never forget is for all of us now. The world is watching.

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Next post is from New York!


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