When vising the Big Apple one thing is for certain, you can’t find a hotel without breaking the bank. I travel quite often and stay in many hotels. I would much rather spend the company's money on innovative advanced photo-luminescent products rather than swanky hotels. I found a good deal on a nice hotel in Hoboken, NJ that had a great view of Manhattan and the contstruction of the Freedom Tower located on the site of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The hotel is also located on the famous Hudson River right in front of where Capt. Sullinberg heroicly landed US Airways flight 1549 in 2009.
On this trip I was joined by my dear friends and brothers Willie Wines of the Ironfiremen.com and Rhett Flietz of the Firecritic.com.
Read Iron Firemen's blogs about this trip:
IronFiremen Part 1
IronFiremen Part 2
IronFiremen Part 3
IronFiremen Part 4
Read The Fire Critic's blogs about this trip here:
FireCritic Part 1
Fire Critic Part 2
We did what any firefighter would do upon arrival of a new city; say hello to the firefighters at the nearest firehouses and visit one of the local watering holes. We visited the great guys of Hoboken FD and were given a tour of their historic and beautiful station. The architecture and history of this and the other stations around Hoboken were very impressive! They looked like what a fire station should look like. The Battalion Chief was on duty and invited us to vist one of their other houses the following morning. The next morning we picked up some authentic New York style bagels for the crew. We had a great tour of the house and even met the Chief. We were all very humbled when they told us that they had not only heard of Foxfire and our advanced photo-luminescent products but they were interested in purchasing. They told us that Frank Sinatra’s dad used to be a firefighter out of their house. As we were leaving, the Battalion Chief pointed to a metal strip on the floor by the stairs. He told us it was for the guys to scrape off the horse Sh!t from the bottom of their boots before they went upstairs!
The next day we were off to visit several landmarks of the FDNY. We visited "Red Square" FDNY's incredible Fleet Service Divison that takes up several city blocks with apparatus as far as the eye could see. They even had a small museum with several antique apparatus'.
From there we headed to the tool central for FDNY. They had more tools in their warehouse than most fire departments have in their entire city.
Next we were off to Randall Island home of FDNY’s famous training facility, the Rock. The world facility does not do it justice, it is an entire city.
The history and scope of this place was breathtaking. They have an entire multi-story city block recreated indoors. Before you enter into the headquarters building you are greeted by a pull-up bar connecting several sacred rusted --beams from the World Trade Center. I managed to heave my overweight/balding frame onto the bar and busted out a few pull-ups before we entered.
I will not forget walking through these hollowed halls. We even saw Capt. Morris of Rescue 1 in the hallway and he remembered us from our last visit a few months earlier. He even told us he still has our illuminating helmet band.
The shrines honoring the men of September 11 and other fallen brothers of the FDNY were very moving. I was particularly drawn to the plaque from the Green Berets who helped distribute World Trade Center wreckage throughout Afghanistan as they brought our long arm of justice to the terrorists who murdered the brave 343 and innocent civilians.
We finished the day back at the World Trade center. We visted our friends at the legendary “Ten House” and they too remebered us and told us how much they liked our illuminating products we dropped off several months prior. We finished off the night, yet again, raising a glass at the famous O’Hara’s pub that still proudly stands in the former shadows of the Twin Towers; while enjoying a grand view of the Freedom Tower as it rises from the sacred ground of the WTC.
This is the second installment of a recap on our recent trip to New York city. To read the first part click here
As we left the Ten House started to walk back uptown we were immediately greeted by an entire tent city sourronded by a crowd of riot police and “crunchy” people marching and yelling. We walked smack into the middle of Zuccotti Park and the Occupy Wall St. protest. We watched with amusement as these confused people protested capitalism as they drank Starbucks, worked on their computers and watched plasma televisions in this tent city that had more technology and food vendors than some entire communities....
The next morning we were off to visit Rescue 1 in Hells Kitchen. Just like the other houses we were treated like family. Visiting Rescue 1 was like nothing I have ever experienced in the fire service. Rescue 1 is like visiting MLB's Hall of Fame except in addition to the plaques of legends on the wall, here you can actually meet and talk the legends.
Rescue 1 is led under the watchful eye of the renowned Capt. Morris. Capt. Morris has a philosophy that sleep is what you do on your off-days. Rescue 1 trains 24 hours a day. When you are in-house, no sleeping, you train. We had the chance to watch the firefighter’s of Rescue 1 do some in-house training on how to deal with a unfortunate victim that may become impaled on a wrought-iron fence. They showed how to use a cutting torch to slice through steel just centimeters away from a victims flesh and not burn them in the process.
Prior to the trip I had a few conversations about my visit with my friend and mentor Chief Billy Goldfetter. Few people outside of New York know FDNY better than Chief Goldfetter. As we were leaving Rescue 1 Chief Goldfetter called and set up a very special meeting with one of his friends. The friend was former FDNY firefighter and president of the September 11th families association and Tribute WTC Visitor's Center , Lee Ielpi. To learn more about Lee please take a quiet moment and watch these brief videos:
Lee’s son was one of the brave 343 murdered that day. After the towers came down, Lee rushed to the sight to bring his son home. Lee searched through the twisted rubble and steel for days and finally found his son. Ten years later and Lee has still never left that site. Lee founded the Tribute WTC center and gave Willie and I a very special private and personal tour. I can honestly say that this was one of the most memorable and moving experiences of my life. Willie and I both were both numb with emotions as Lee walked us through this incredible museum that held artifacts from that day, the most special of all were the crushed fire helmet and turn-out coat of his dear son.
Willie and I left the museum and went next door to famous O’Hara’s pub to raise a glass to Lee's son Jonathan Ielepi and his other 342 brothers that participated in the greatest rescue mission in the history of firefighting. We were soon joined by Rhett and walked down to the sacred site. It was cold and raining which helped mask our tears as we each took time to peer into the voids of the two reflecting pool monuments that have so perfectly both captured emptiness of those majestic buildings at the same time honoring all those that lost their lives.
Our last trip of the night brought us to Brooklyn and Rescue 2. Last year I had the chance to meet Capt. Liam Flaherty. Capt. Flaherty was representing the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drums at Fire Rescue in San Diego when we first met. I shared with him my vision for MN8-Foxfire and he graciously offered to evaluate our illuminating products. Who would have ever thought that less than a year later I would be visiting with him at his station in Brooklyn. Capt. Flaherty and his crew welcomed us into Rescue 2 like we were part of the team.
The guys fixed us coffee shared stories and watched the NY Rangers NHL home opener with them in the day room. I spend a lot of time on the road growing MN8-Foxfire. Being away from my family can sometimes be tough but as I spend time away from my family at home, I spend time with my firefighter family on the road. From the small volunteer departments in middle america to the beautiful stations in southern California to Rescue 2 in Brooklyn I can always lean on my brothers.
I have the privilege to visit firefighters and firehouses from all over the world to discuss the benefits of advanced photluminescent technology and how it can help illuminate search areas, increase accountability of tools and personnel and also reduce disorientation. I start every trip the same way, I stop by the nearest fire department introduce myself and share with my firefighting brothers stories, meals, and the benefits of Foxfire. I knew, however, this trip would be different. This was a pilgrimage, this was a chance to meet legends. FDNY is more than the largest combined fire department in the world, FDNY is an institution. The men in the FDNY are the heroes of the heroes, they are the best of the best.
American Novelist Sherwood Anderson said it best ”I think when an American stays away from New York too long something happens to him. Perhaps he becomes a little provincial, a little dead and afraid.” I visited NYC a few years ago and I remembered how empty lower Manhattan looked on approach to the airport. Missing were the majestic twin towers silhouetting Lady Liberty. This arrival was different, this time I passed the 75% completed Freedom Tower. The sight of this Phoenix rising from the ashes filled me with pride, patriotism, courage, and hope.
I could think of no one better to join me on this pilgrimage than the Iron-Fireman, Capt. Willie Wines and the Fire-Critic, Lt. Rhett Fleitz. The trip started by the two Virginians picking me up at JFK. The FDNY has 221 stations, there would be no way to visit all of them so we figured it would best if we focused on the Rescue units. Now for those of you who are not entirely familiar with large fire departments, Rescue units are different than than other Ladder and Engine companies. FDNY’s Rescue Units are the elite of the elite. They are all hand picked and are similar to a police department’s SWAT team or a military commando units like the Navy's SEALs or the Army's Green Berets. Each of the 5 NYC burroughs has their own Rescue unit and our goal was to visit as many as we could.
Our first stop was Rescue 4 in Queen’s. We didn't have a scheduled appointment and to be perfectly honest we didn’t know how we were going to be received. We introduced ourselves to the watch officer and were welcomed with open arms. We were given a tour and had the chance to visit with practically the entire crew. They could not have been more hospitable and gracious.
Next, we were off to Times Square for some sightseeing and a well deserved steak dinner. We stopped by one of my favorite bars in Manhattan located at the W hotel on Times Square. I guess we were quite a sight because Rhett and I weren’t wearing a designer suits and Willie had his big cowboy hat, championship belt buckle and fire-boots. While were waiting for our drinks in this ultra swanky lounge one of those metro-sexual Manhattanites asked Willie and Rhett were they from, when Rhett replied Virginia the guy trying to be as kind as possible possible asked how long we had been visiting this country...
After an incredible steak dinner and the famous Ben Benson’s Steak House we decided to pay homage to the World Trade Center site. We took the R train to the Financial District and as we exited the stairwell of the subway we emerged directly between the St. Paul’s churchyard and the crater of the twin towers. Words failed all of us and we each took a seat on the small wall of the cemetery and reflected in our own private silence. I was honored to share this special time with these fellow firefighter brothers. We walked the entire multi-block perimeter numb with emotion and feelings. The contrast of the construction lighting with black sky added to the reverence.
Before we knew it we were in front of the legendary “Ten House” This station is located in the World Trade Center and after that fateful day has become a quite a destination for people from all over the world visiting the WTC site. We wanted to pay our respects to this house and visit but we also were concerned that we may be bothering the brave FDNY firefighters that have to answer the door to every one of the thousands of daily tourists. Just like Rescue 4 these fellow brothers could not have been more welcoming and friendly. They even went so far as to invite us back the next day and meet the captain of the 10 truck.
To be contined....