On July 11, an editor for Michigan-based newspaper wrote an editorial questioning the operations at the World Trade Center on 9-11. Among other things, he accuses FDNY firefighters of acting like “cowboys” and the fire department’s being “out of control.” The editorial is linked below. International Association of Fire Fighters General President Harold Schaitberger has responded. His letter to the Michigan newspaper is posted below. Let us know what you think by visiting our discussion area located at the FireEngineering.com Discussion Board.
To the Editor:
Your editorial of July 11 labeling New York firefighters “cowboys” for their heroic acts and sacrifice at the World Trade Center on September 11 is an outrage and a slap in the face of every fire fighter across this nation. By suggesting that the fire fighters acted like a “mob… instead of performing heroically,” you desecrated the memory of the 347 fire fighters who gave their lives that day in service to their fellow citizens and their country.
Before you were so quick to criticize, you should have talked to some of the thousands of workers in those twin towers who were led to safety by the firefighters who, in your eyes, acted “recklessly. “You should have talked to the widows, children, or parents of the fire fighters whose remains were found buried at Ground Zero surrounded by the bodies of the civilians they were attempting to rescue before you labeled my fallen members as “foolhardy.”
Before you suggested the firefighters’ died “in vain,” you should have talked to one of the Secret Service agents who were protecting President Bush in New York when he visited with firefighters and grieving families on September 14, three days after the attack.
That agent would have told you the same story she told me about being partially buried in rubble as she fled the Secret Service headquarters at the World Trade Center after the planes hit. Blinded by the pale of heavy dust that also choked her lungs, she thought she was going to die until two sets of hands grabbed her arms, lifted her from the debris, and carried her several blocks to safety as one of the towers collapsed behind them. Those hands belonged to firefighters, who didn’t even give her time to thank them before they rushed back to the hell that was once the World Trade Center.
The bravery of the New York firefighters may be “macho” and “childish behavior” to you, but to the 255,000 men and women of the International Association of Fire Fighters in Michigan, in New York, and across our nation and Canada – as well as the thousands of civilians saved by their courageous acts — they were heroic.
These men died doing something that mattered. You can gripe from afar all you want about how the New York firefighters responded to the most horrific disaster to ever hit our nation, but the fact remains, they did their job in the face of incomprehensible adversity, they did it well, and thousands of innocent people are alive today because they lived – and died – as heroes.
Harold A. Schaitberger