A Wayne-Westland firefighter’s life has been tragically cut short. Wednesday, 29-year-old Brian Woehlke was killed on the job.
At 8:17 a.m., a 911 call from a cell phone reported a working fire at The Electric Stick on Wayne Road in Westland, previously a pool hall converted into a charity poker venue. The 13,000 square foot structure includes Marvaso’s Italian Grille.
While fighting the fire, it was discovered that Woehlke was unaccounted for.
While checking an area of the building that had collapsed, they discovered the missing firefighter. He could not be revived. People watching the fire immediately began holding hands and praying.
Jennifer Woehlke made the following statement: “Brian loved going to work every day, and he worked his whole life to become a firefighter. Brian was proud a Wayne-Westland firefighter.”
The body of a Wayne Westland firefighter has been recovered from a blaze at a pair of businesses in a Westland strip mall today.
Brian Woehlke, 29, was found today, said Deputy Fire Chief Rob Arbini. Woehlke had been a firefighter for 10 months, Arbini said.
Mayor William Wild said he received notification of the body’s recovery at about 12:40 p.m. No information is being released about the firefighter.
Firefighters responded to a blaze at the Electric Stick, a billiards hall, at about 9 a.m. They received a mayday call through the communications system at about 9:30 a.m., indicating a firefighter was in distress. The call was received after a roof collapsed. The strip mall is located at Hunter and Wayne roads.
Woehlke is the first firefighter to fall in the line of duty in the City of Westland Fire Department’s 47-year history.
A Dearborn resident, Woehlke was married and the father of one child.,
Woehlke was among firefighters who responded to the fire sometime after 8 a.m. Wednesday. A may day distress radio call from Woehlke was received about 9:30 a.m. His body was recovered from the collapsed building about 12:40 p.m.
Woehlke is believed to have been trapped in debris from the collapsed Electric Stick and adjoining Marvaso’s Italian Grille.
Five firefighters reportedly went in and only four came out after the Electric Stick pool hall went up in flames Wednesday morning. Electric Stick is located on Wayne Road just south of Warren.
A restaurant was also destroyed in the fire.
Black smoke could be seen pouring from the building for miles.
Business owner George Marvaso says, “we will rebuild.” Marvaso, a man of strong faith says it is his faith that he will rely on throughout this time.
Electric Stick opened in 1993 as a billiard hall and in recent years had become a charity poker hall. Over the years Marvaso has been able to host tournaments that have raised more than $3-million dollars.
WacoTrib.com has come up with a list of 11 of the 14 people who died in the explosion Wednesday in West, Texas. Nine of the 11 are firefighters. To my knowledge this is not from an “official” release from authorities in Texas. You will note that in addition to the West VFD and Dallas Fire & Rescue, previously mentioned, the firefighters are from the fire departments of Mertens, Navarro Mills and Abbott.
• Morris Bridges, 41. Fire sprinkler technician for Action Fire Pros. Member of West Volunteer Fire Department.
• Perry Calvin, 37. Student at Hill College Fire Academy. Member of Mertens and Navarro Mills volunteer fire departments.
• Jerry Chapman, 26. Member of Abbott Volunteer Fire Department.
• Cody Dragoo, 50. Foreman at West Fertilizer Co. Member of West Volunteer Fire Department.
• Kenny Harris, 52. Dallas city fire captain.
• Jimmy Matus, 52. Owner of Westex Welding in West.
• Joey Pustejovsky. West City Secretary. Member of West Volunteer Fire Department.
• Cyrus Reed. Worked at Waxahachie plant. Member of Abbott Volunteer Fire Department.
• Robert Snokhaus, 48. Central Texas Iron Works employee, West volunteer firefighter.
• Doug Snokhaus, 50. Central Texas Iron Works employee, West volunteer firefighter.
• Buck Uptmor, 40s. Owner of fencing company. Lived near West.
“It’s tough, man,” said Steve Vanek, West’s mayor pro tem and volunteer fireman who survived the blast. “All these guys we’ve known all our lives. One of the firemen that died was a lifelong friend of my son. I’ve known him since he was born.”
Vanek also said Friday that the West Volunteer Fire Department lost three of its five fire engines in the blast, including a new $200,000 pumper. He said the department will rebuild, but in the meantime it will need help from its neighbors.
“You talk about family — I mean, it really is,” Vanek said.Case in point were longtime West volunteer firefighters Robert and Doug Snokhaus. Robert, 48, and Doug, 50, also worked at Central Texas Iron Works in Waco, where they were on the emergency response team.“
They were both amazing professionals at their respective responsibilities and not only long time employees but friends to everyone here at CTIW,” said company president David Harwell in an email to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Michael R. Goodwin, Sr.,Captain, Philadelphia Fire Department, Badge # 2773, passed away tragically serving the citizens of Philadelphia on April 6, 2013.Beloved husband of Kelly (nee McDonnell). Loving Dad of Dorothy Dunn (Timothy) and Michael R., Jr. Loving Pop of Timothy Jr. and Bailey Dunn. Dear son of Elizabeth and the late James Goodwin, brother of James (Kelly), Robert (Brenda) and Deborah Goodwin, brother in law of Thomas McDonnell (Joann). Also Surviving are many nieces and nephews. Mike was a member of the Philadelphia Fire Department for over 29 years. He became a firefighter on September 9, 1983, Class # 153. Mike proudly served in the U.S. Navy as an E-4 and was honorably discharged on August 27, 1983. Mike was awarded many commendations while serving the citizens of Philadelphia. He was a Philadelphia Sports fan but the most important aspect of Michael’s life was his family. Relatives, friends, members of Philadelphia Fire Department Local 22 and all first responders are invited to share in Mike’s Life Celebration Wednesday from 5:00- 9:00 PM and Thursday morning from 9:00 to 10:45 AM at John F. Givnish of Academy Rd. 10975 Academy Rd. Michael’s Life Celebration Service will be held at 12:00 Noon at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, 2139 E. Cumberland St. Interment Hillside Cemetery, Roslyn, PA. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions in Mike’s memory to the Firefighters Widow Fund c/o Local 22, 415 N. 5th St. Phila, PA 19123 would be appreciated. To share your fondest memories of Mike visit www.lifecelebration.com.
The mayor of Philadelphia on Sunday ordered flags flown at half-staff and called for prayers for the family and colleagues of a veteran fire captain killed when a roof collapsed beneath him as he battled a blaze, the third city firefighter killed in the line of duty in a year.
Capt. Michael Goodwin, 53, plunged onto the second-floor roof of the three-story building in the Fabric Row section during Saturday night’s blaze. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Fellow firefighter Andrew Godlewski, 28, burned on his hands while trying to rescue Goodwin, was discharged Sunday from a hospital, officials said.
“We must never forget the grave risks that these heroic public servants take every day at a moment’s notice on behalf of us all,” Mayor Michael Nutter said in a statement Sunday.
At an emotional news conference late Saturday, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers called Goodwin, a 29-year veteran, “a really good person.”
“He was the kind of guy who looked out for his folks,” he said. “A ladder man. A firefighter’s firefighter.”
Goodwin is survived by a wife, two grown children and three siblings, one of whom is a police officer, he said.
Police officers and fellow firefighters saluted Goodwin’s body, draped in an American flag, as it was carried to a hospital and, later, to a funeral home.
The loss came as the fire department prepared to mark a year since an April 9 blaze at a warehouse that killed Capt. Robert Neary, 59, and Daniel Sweeney, 25. They also died in a collapse, which came as they inspected an adjacent building.
“We have a department that is wounded,” Ayers said. “We have scars that are fresh, and indeed they have now been reopened.”
Nutter ordered flags flown at half-staff at all city buildings for the next 30 days in Goodwin’s honor, officials said.
At Goodwin’s fire station deep in south Philadelphia, bouquets were clustered on and around a wooden bench along with a large toy fire truck and ladder.
The American Red Cross of southeastern Pennsylvania said 17 residents were displaced by the blaze, and three of them needed financial help with hotels, food and clothing.
At the scene Sunday afternoon, a fire hose planted in the middle of the street sprayed a jet of water onto the remains of the building, which had collapsed into a pile that stretched over the sidewalk in between two other three-story row homes. Meals and counseling were being provided for grieving firefighters, the Red Cross said.
The blaze appeared to have started in a fabric store downstairs before spreading to upstairs apartments and a neighboring boutique, the store’s owner said. The proprietors of both stores told The Philadelphia Inquirer that everyone in both buildings at the time of the fire managed to escape.
The fire’s cause wasn’t immediately known, but Bruce Blumenthal, the owner of Jack B. Fabrics, said he believes it started in a wall and may have been electrical in nature. Blumenthal said he smelled smoke coming from the basement at around 5 p.m. and found a box of collars and cuffs on fire. He tried to put the flames out with an extinguisher to no avail, he said.
A fire burned a fabric shop, upstairs apartments and a neighboring boutique Saturday evening, causing a partial roof collapse that killed a firefighter and injured a colleague who was trying to rescue him, officials said.
Captain Michael Goodwin, 53, was killed in the line of duty, Amy Daly, a nursing supervisor at Jefferson University Hospitals, told The Associated Press. Goodwin was a 29-year veteran of the fire department. Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers says he was killed in a fall from the third floor roof to the second.
The second firefighter, Andrew Godlinski, 28, of Ladder 2, was hospitalized with burns. Officials say he was injured while trying to rescue Captain Goodwin. He is expected to survive.
Officials say Captain Goodwin belonged to Ladder 27. His comrades saluted as his body was carried out and taken to the hospital.
Engine-11 arrived on scene with smoke showing from the first floor of three story store front with apartments above. B/C-4 reported companies had trouble located the seat of the fire in the basement of fabric store. Placed all hands in service Deputy-1 requested the second alarm. Command ordered all companies out of the building and went in service with an exterior operations. Command requested the third alarm struck for heavy fire through out. Command requested a the collapse unit for a firefighter trapped after a collapse of the building.
The firefighter was recovered from the building and transported to the hospital with serious injuries. Another firefighter was burned in an attempt to rescue the trapped firefighter.
The firefighter was pronounced at the hospital. He had been the Captain of Ladder-27.
The collapse left the firefighter trapped inside the building on the street known as Fabric Row, officials said. Other firefighters saluted as his body was carried out on a stretcher and taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
The fatality came just short of a year since the last time Philadelphia firefighters died in the line of duty. A warehouse blaze in the Kensington section last April 11 killed Capt. Robert Neary, 59, and Daniel Sweeney, 25, both from Ladder 10, and injured two other firefighters.
“We have a department that is wounded,” Ayers said. “We have scars that are fresh, and indeed they have now been reopened.”
The first engine arrived four minutes after the fire call came in, Ayers said. One person inside the building at the time was taken out by firefighters, as they stretched hoses into the building and went to work.
It was 31 minutes after the initial call when the second alarm was struck. Ayers said the crews faced “faced heavy smoke, heavy fire,” adding that from the exterior you could see fabric throughout the store.
It was 6:21 p.m. when officials were informed that a member of the department was “down.” The report changed to one member “missing,” and a third alarm was struck by 6:30 p.m.
Ayers said they found out subsequently that the firefighter “had fallen from the third-floor roof to the second-floor roof.”
“Firefighters were trying to rescue him from the second-floor roof when that roof collapsed,” the fire commissioner went on to say.
In my work with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation I have been able to see the impact that contributions big and small have on the survivors. The contributions come in the form of the legion of fire service volunteers who run Memorial Weekend and countless programs throughout the year, to donations of material and money.
Motorola Solutions supports the Foundation in all those ways and then some. Now they are doing so with a beautiful video taking you into Memorial Weekend through the eyes of some of the survivors who return each year to Emmitsburg to help other families. As you will hear, some of these survivors have benefited greatly from the scholarship program Motorola Solutions generously supports. Please take a moment to watch this.
We want to thank all who entered to win one of five bricks from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Walk of Honor in Emmitsburg, Maryland that STATter911.com is giving away. It’s our way of saying thanks for all the support you have given me and this site. The drawing can be seen in the video above. Here are the winners:
Robert Hall (correction, this is actually Rachel Hall)
I have contacted each of the winners by email or Facebook.
Even if you didn’t win, it doesn’t mean you or someone you want to honor can’t get have a brick surrounding the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial. Click here for the details.
LAST CHANCE TO ENTER – Contest closes at 12 noon EST today. Winners announced Monday.
Just a reminder that it’s easy to enter our contest where STATter911.com is giving away five bricks on the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Walk of Honor in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Here’s a repeat of our post a few days ago. This past year has been one of amazing growth for STATter911.com and STATter911 Communications, LLC. When I left my job as a reporter in June of 2010 I was somewhat concerned if it was the right move. But thanks to all of the support I have received from STATter911.com readers and many others, you have proven there is life after TV news. To thank you as the year starts to wrap up I am giving away five bricks (individual) along the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Walk of Honor in Emmitsburg, Maryland. One brick for each year STATter911.com has been in existence. Your name, or the name of someone you want to honor or remember, can be inscribed on the brick, which will be added to the others surrounding the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial (if you win and want to honor a department or choose one of the other options, STATter911.com will pay $100 toward the cost). Even if you don’t win one of the bricks from me, it’s a great holiday gift for a firefighter. Click here to learn more. There are two ways to register to win. 1. Go to the STATter911.com fan page on Facebook (not my personal page) and leave me a comment in the contest post at the top of the page.
2. Send me an email at email@example.comThe deadline for entries is Friday, December 21 at 12 noon EST. From the entries received by then, five names will be drawn and the winners announced on STATter911.com on December 24. I will contact the winners either via Facebook or email, depending on how their entry was received. Again, thank you for all of your support.
It’s a shame you just can’t find quite quality holiday gifts for those little firefighters in your life like anymore. The Texaco Class A pumper in the advertisement above from 50-years or so ago would have been just perfect for that little fellow in my life (that would be the one in the picture below who calls himself THE Fire Critic). He so wants to grow up to be a firefighter. Also, $3.98 is all I’m willing to spend on him (he treats me very poorly).
When you get to the STATter911.com Facebook page just leave a message in the comments under the contest post at the top (the very first post). After you enter, make sure you hit “like” on the STATter911.com page so you can stay updated on the contest and get the latest videos and news from STATter911.com.
You can also enter the contest by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Just one entry per person, please. The deadline for entries is Friday, December 21, 2012 at 12 noon EST. We will announce the winners on Monday, December 24.
You have to admit he sure is cute. He’s 17 now and waiting for that growth spurt. Don’t forget, the little Fire Cricket and his uncle, Iron Firemen’s Willie Wines Jr., also have some free stuff to give away. Make sure you check out their contest.
But before you go, take a moment to watch the holiday message below from the “extended” STATter911.com family.
This past year has been one of amazing growth for STATter911.com and STATter911 Communications, LLC. When I left my job as a reporter in June of 2010 I was somewhat concerned if it was the right move. But thanks to all of the support I have received from STATter911.com readers and many others, you have proven there is life after TV news.
To thank you as the year starts to wrap up I am giving away five bricks (individual) along the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Walk of Honor in Emmitsburg, Maryland. One brick for each year STATter911.com has been in existence.
Your name, or the name of someone you want to honor or remember, can be inscribed on the brick, which will be added to the others surrounding the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial (if you win and want to honor a department or choose one of the other options, STATter911.com will pay $100 toward the cost).
The deadline for entries is Friday, December 21 at 12 noon EST. From the entries received by then, five names will be drawn and the winners announced on STATter911.com on December 24. I will contact the winners either via Facebook or email, depending on how their entry was received.
Fifteen-years-ago this morning DCFD Sergeant John Michael Carter failed to make it out of a fire in a small corner grocery at 400 Kennedy Street in Northwest Washington. Sergeant Carter had fallen into the basement as his crew left the building. Today, our thoughts are with the family and many friends of John Carter.
I knew John Carter, but not extremely well. More of a passing, “Hi, how are you?” and a few words on a fireground or a wave, as he did shortly before his death during a visit to the TV station where I worked. But I learned all about John Carter two days after he was gone and it was one of the more unforgettable experiences in 38-years of covering news.
On Sunday morning, October 26, 1997, IAFF Local 36 Vice President Kenny Cox called and said that Debbie Carter wanted to do an interview with me about her husband. It was a surprise because, out of respect, we were keeping our distance and I hadn’t even requested an interview. But I consider it one of the great honors of my life to get that call.
To this day, my friend videographer Greg Guise and I are still in awe of what we witnessed. Despite this unbelievable loss occurring just two days earlier, Debbie sat perfectly composed telling us about her husband. She was not going to let tears get in the way of letting everyone know who John Carter was. There was even a proud smile on her face at times as she talked about John Carter, the firefighter, father and husband.
Photo by Dave Iannone.
But it was hard for anyone who saw the story not to shed some tears when we heard Debbie say how happy she was that very early on a chilly Friday morning she decided to get out of bed and walk out of their Maryland home to give her husband a kiss as he headed off to what turned out to be his final shift. What a lesson for us all.
I’ve said it many, many times since that interview and I will say it again. We should all be as fortunate as John Carter was to have someone speak so eloquently on our behalf once we are gone.
Unfortunately because of a change in servers at WUSA9.com a few years back, that entire interview is no longer available online. But below is a story the station did two-years-ago about a scholarship for John and Debbie’s son Brian. Brian was just eight-years-old when his dad died. In the story is a small excerpt from that 1997 interview.
This will be our the sixth year streaming the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Memorial Weekend telecasts and we are grateful many, many other websites are doing the same. WUSA9.com is once again providing the live streaming. Saturday’s Candlelight Service begins at 6:30 PM EDT. Sunday’s Memorial Service starts at 10:00 AM EDT. See both telecasts via STATter911.com.
Please encourage your department and your local news media to also run the live streaming so that as many people as possible will see the tribute to the nation’s fallen firefighters.
In addition, there are many other ways to take part in Memorial Weekend even if you can’t join us in Emmitsburg. Here is a link that has all of the information you will need – http://weekend.firehero.org/creative/2012/ . Here are some of the highlights:
Be part of the FireHero Network and embed live streaming of Saturday’s Candlelight Service and Sunday’s Memorial Service on your website. And please encourage general news websites in your community to do the same. Click here for streaming information.
In addition, you will be able to follow the weekend events through social media. NFFF has a team of firefighters on campus in Emmitsburg to provide pictures, video and details throughout the weekend,
There are two new campaigns this year for firefighters and the public to show their support of the fallen on their Facebook pages. On Saturday, October 6 at 6:30 pm please “Light a Virtual Candle for a Fallen Firefighter.” And on Sunday, October 7 you can “Ring a Virtual Bell for a Fallen Firefighter.” All the details are available here:
The second annual Bells Across America for Fallen Firefighters is going strong and more departments and places of worship are signing on every day. Please continue to spread the word of this important program that encourages the public to pause and remember the firefighters who have died. http://bellsacrossamerica.com/
Over the weekend NFFF will be posting video remembrances of firefighters from their survivors. As always, there is a growing library of Memorial Weekend videos on FireHero TV, the NFFF YouTube channel http://www.firehero.tv.com.
MORE ON THE WEB
The Virtual Remembrance Banner is available for anyone to pay tribute to a fallen firefighter or share a special memory of Memorial Weekend. It’s a wonderful way for family, friends and others who can’t be in Emmitsburg to have a connection to the events. http://weekend.firehero.org/remembrance/banner.php
Departments and individuals can still add the National Fallen Firefighters Tribute Widget to their website, blog or Facebook page. Go to http://weekend.firehero.org/widget/ to copy and embed the widget.
Of course, webmaster Jenni McClelland will be constantly updating the Memorial Weekend website with fresh pictures and information at http://weekend.firehero.org/. And you will always find information about all of the programs of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation at http://firehero.org.
About a month after the events of September 11, 2001 I was asked by journalist Allison Gilbert to contribute my experiences at the Pentagon on that day to a book called Covering Catastrophe: Broadcast Journalists Report September 11. While I knew I was only one of many TV and radio reporters and anchors who would be contributing to the book, and Allison would only be using a couple of blurbs, it was an opportunity for me to write a chronology of the day and put a few thoughts down.
Below is that account. It is a view of September 11 through the eyes of a TV reporter who arrived on Washington Boulevard in front of the Pentagon helipad six-minutes after impact. YouTube has some of the TV coverage from that day broadcast by my colleagues at WUSA-TV in Washington. I have added those clips at the appropriate times.
I conclude with a postscript written 40-days after the attacks that looks at the public’s perception of firefighters following the sacrifice made by 343 members of the Fire Department of New York.
September 11, 2001
8:52 AM: Spending time with my son is always the best way to start the day. Sam, almost two years old, is eating his breakfast. I bring my toast into the den to sit with him. The television is on so we can do what we usually do in the morning, watch my wife, Hillary Howard, Sam’s mom, do the weather on WUSA-TV. Instead of the “Early Show” ending to make way for local news, I see the open to a “CBS News Special Report”. I turn the sound up, but don’t need Bryant Gumbel to tell me that something is very wrong at one of the World Trade Center towers. The thick, black smoke pouring out of many windows and from the roof makes it very clear this is a major disaster in the making. Gumbel says there is a report that a plane hit the building. Those words send me out of the room and upstairs to quickly finish getting dressed.
9:03 AM: I occasionally glance at the TV upstairs. A little slow to comprehend some of what it going on, it dawns on me that this appears to be a crystal clear day. I am starting to wonder if this plane crash is really an accident. As I think about calling the newsroom to suggest we might be dealing with a terrorist attack of some sort, any doubts I had are immediately erased. My head quickly turns toward to the TV as I hear a woman say to Byrant Gumbel, “Oh, there is another one! Another plane just hit! Oh, my gosh! Another plane has hit! Another building! Flew right into the middle of it. Explosion.”
It hit me instantly that our lives have suddenly changed.
9:05 AM: On the phone to the station, I talk to Dave Roberts, our news director. I am convinced that if the people who did this were organized enough to quickly hit two targets like the World Trade Center towers, Washington would be next. We decide I will head into town to start looking around for increased security measures and be ready if another attack occurs.
9:10 AM: No time for our normal goodbye ritual. I give Sam a quick kiss and hug. Sam says something about “Jay Jay”. “Jay Jay the Jet Plane”, Sam’s favorite TV show, comes on soon. Not knowing what he may have already seen on TV this morning, I tell him calmly that “Jay Jay” is having a bad day. With the uncertainty of what was ahead, I didn’t want to leave Sam. I knew, though, he was in good hands with Glenda, the woman who takes care of him while we are at work.
9:15 AM: Realizing my good friend, Dan Patrick, our night assignment manager, is probably asleep and has no idea what is going on, I wake him. Dan doesn’t believe me when I describe the events of the morning along with my concern that Washington is next. Certainly I would have thought this was one of his sick practical jokes if the situation were reversed. Hanging up, I’m not sure he is convinced that this is for real.
9:25 AM: My first stop, the State Department. I circle the block and notice some extra officers being deployed around the building. Other street activity appears normal. Checking out the Pentagon never enters my mind.
9:38 AM: East bound on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, I turn north on 17th Street. At that moment the scanners in my car come alive. On numerous police and fire radio frequencies, people are yelling that a plane hit the Pentagon. Making a fast U-turn, I see the smoke rising across the Potomac River. I get the assignment desk on the phone. It’s a bad connection. I yell into the phone, “Pentagon, Pentagon, Pentagon. Send everyone to the Pentagon. I should be there soon.”
I carefully bust a few lights on southbound 17th Street. Making a right turn, traffic is light on westbound Independence Avenue.
9:41 AM: Anchors Mike Buchanan and Andrea Roane break into CBS coverage to report that there has been an apparent plane crash at the Pentagon. They have distant, but clear pictures of the Pentagon ablaze from our rooftop camera in Rosslyn.
9:43 AM: There is also little traffic heading outbound on the Memorial Bridge. Across the river, I now have a distant view of the Pentagon. The very black smoke I am seeing is surely caused by the fuel, now burning, that was in the plane’s tanks. I call the control room to try and get on the air, but the call cuts out as the anchors lead to me.
9:44 AM: Somehow I end up on southbound Washington Boulevard directly in front of the Pentagon helipad. That is good news, but for the moment it does me no good because there is wireless gridlock. I am unable to get a phone call out.
9:46 AM: I have my home video camera out and on the tripod, rolling off a few shots. The phone still isn’t working.
9:48 AM: Walking down Washington Boulevard is Heather Cabot a recently hired reporter for WUSA. She tells me her phone isn’t getting out either. I ask her to take over my camera and I will work on trying to get a phone call to the station. Heather tells me she is with photographer Mike Trammel. I look back to see Trammel and put my camera away.
9:52 AM: Heather’s phone finally gets through. I describe the scene as firefighters from Ft. Meyer and National Airport put the first water and foam on the burning Pentagon. Some people are looking at the sky, making sure another plane isn’t approaching. I suggest to Heather, that it is probably a good idea for us to do the same. Amazingly traffic on northbound Washington Boulevard has not been blocked and drivers are just whizzing by the burning Pentagon as they head to work.
A familiar red van pulls a few feet past us. It is one of our microwave vans with Bruce Bookholtz at the wheel. I am a bit amazed that, with no communication, we all end up at the same spot.
We hear a number of small pops and explosions. I am guessing those are tires popping from the vehicles that were parked against the building and are now burning, or possibly some small canisters exploding. Among the vehicles on fire is the new crash/rescue fire truck, belonging to the Ft. Meyer Fire Department. It is stationed at the Pentagon and is routinely on hand for helicopter landings and takeoffs, in case of an emergency. It is a fire truck designed for just this rare event, a plane crash, and it can’t be used.
9:55 AM: Heather tells me to look down on the street around us. I was so intent on watching the burning Pentagon, I hadn’t noticed there are what appear to be small pieces from the airplane at my feet. I had already seen the large amount of debris scattered on the Pentagon lawn, but so far no piece is large enough to be easily identified as an airplane part.
9:57 AM: Our first live video is on the air. You see flames crawling up the familiar face of the Pentagon along with some of the first victims as they are carried away from the building.
9:59 AM: I am on the air with Michael Kelly, an eyewitness Heather pulled out of the crowd. Kelly was driving on nearby I-395 when he saw the plane take aim on the Pentagon.
10:00 AM: Anchor Andrea Roane interrupts me, “Dave, Dave, Dave. We want to break in, because we want to go back to New York, where Dan Rather is anchoring our coverage, where one of the towers at the World Trade Center has collapsed”.
These words stop me in my tracks for a moment. I have no TV monitor to see this for myself. Just Andrea’s words. It doesn’t compute in my brain. I had been a firefighter. I had studied high-rise firefighting. There had been a number of major high-rise fires throughout the world that burned for many hours. To my knowledge there had never been a catastrophic collapse of an entire building. This was just one of many things happening today that no one has ever had to deal with.
Knowing how aggressive New York firefighters are, I realize there must be scores of dead rescuers. The last pictures I saw out of New York were from an hour ago. Even then it was pretty apparent, from the amount of fire, that anyone at the impact points and above had little chance of survival.
10:05 AM: They come back to me for our first interview with someone who was in the Pentagon at the time of the attack. Two or three men on stretchers pass by us. It is our first close-up look at the injured and they are severely, if not critically burned over a good portion of their bodies. These victims are flown out by helicopter to a hospital burn unit. Their lives will never be the same.
10:10 AM: A Virginia State Trooper starts moving everyone back. There is concern another plane is coming toward the Pentagon. We don’t move.
10:15 AM: As they come back to our live shot, five floors suddenly collapse around the jet’s impact point. There is now a large gash on the west side of the Pentagon.
10:18 AM: People start running away from the Pentagon. This time, FBI agents are telling us another plane is just minutes out. They order us to move immediately. I am able to get in a few quick words, attempting to explain to Mike and Andrea what is happening, before the transmitter is turned off and the live truck’s mast starts coming down.
10:28 AM: We move just a short distance off Washington Boulevard and down the ramp to Columbia Pike. As Bruce tries to re-establish a signal, I hear through my earpiece that the second tower in New York has collapsed. I just can’t imagine what it going on in Manhattan. The death toll must be staggering. I recall my wife once telling me her grandfather hauled truckloads of steel used to build the Twin Towers. Now those buildings don’t exist.
10:32 AM: We are again feeding live pictures of the burning Pentagon.
10:36 AM: Witnesses are giving different descriptions of the plane that hit the building. Some say it is an American Airlines 757, while others believe it was a business jet. The fire is still burning out of control.
10:38 AM: Mike Buchanan asks me if I have seen any large pieces of an airplane at the scene. As I answer this question, he interrupts me,“Hold on Dave. Hold on just a second. We’ve got a bulletin from AP. A large plane has just crashed in Western Pennsylvania.”
Mike also reads an AP report about a car bomb going off at the State Department. We are just across the river from State and we didn’t hear an explosion.
10:42 AM: An F-16 makes a low pass near the Pentagon. That, along with the plane crash in Pennsylvania, makes me think there was something to the threats that forced us move away from the building. I notice a large group of people huddled under the Washington Boulevard overpass.
10:52 AM: A Lt. Colonel with Air Force Public Affairs passes our location. We snag him. He urges people to keep far away from the Pentagon. If you have loved ones you can’t account for, he asks that you not come to the Pentagon. He has no idea of the number of dead or injured. Not much in the way of information, but it is the first official word.
WUSA anchorman Gordon Peterson, who was originally sent to nearby National Airport for a flight to New York, arrives at our location.
10:54 AM: Mike and Andrea confirm there was no car bomb at the State Department. A little bit of good news.
11:06 AM: Gordon interviews Mike Walter, a television reporter for “USA Today Live”. Mike, on his way to work in Rosslyn, witnessed the Pentagon crash and offers the most vivid description so far.
11:10 AM: We are again ordered to move our live truck further away from the Pentagon.
11:31 AM: Our shot is back up. This time, from a hill in front of the Quick Mart. This Citgo, looks like a normal service station, but it is exclusively for use by military personnel.
11:39 AM: The fire is spreading. Suddenly there are flames showing in a number of windows far from the point of impact.
People again start moving quickly from the Pentagon. There is more talk of another hijacked plane heading our way.
11:52 AM: Again, more people rush from the Pentagon.
12:16 PM: I listen to Dan Patrick, with a phone report, describe his attempts to get from Northern Virginia to the TV station in Northwest Washington. Dan says he had to show identification to a police officer and explain his business in the city. Only then was he allowed to cross Key Bridge into Georgetown. The city is in lockdown.
12:18 PM: Gordon notices an ambulance convoy from the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad pull up along Columbia Pike. It was a repeat of a scene I had witnessed, just on the other side of the Pentagon, almost 20 years earlier. The same Maryland squad sent a similar contingent after Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the 14th Street Bridge on January 13th, 1982.
12:20 PM: If I am not convinced how much turmoil there is in the country from these attacks, this does it. Mike and Andrea announce Disney World is being evacuated.
12:28 PM: A Navy public affairs officer officially confirms what has been painfully obvious. Besides the dead on the aircraft, Pentagon workers are dead inside the building. He has no idea how many people didn’t get out.
12:32 PM: Talking on the air with Mike and Andrea, it still isn’t clear which of the four hijacked jets smashed into the Pentagon. Right now, American Airlines believes the hijacked flight from Dulles crashed into one of the towers in New York.
Police move everyone, including the news media, off the hillside. Bruce pulls the truck around to the other end of the service station lot. This fourth move winds up being our last. It becomes home for the better part of two weeks.
1:19 PM: The first official briefing from the Pentagon. Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, announces that this was “a full assault on the United States of America”. The admiral says there was no way to prepare for an attack like this. I am shaking my head at the fact that the spokesman for the military headquarters of the United States of America is forced to talk to the world from a service station parking lot.
1:30 PM: CNN Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre joins me on the air for a few minutes. Our first time working together was at WTOP radio, 20 years ago, covering the Air Florida plane crash. Jamie says they always anticipated a terrorist attack at the Pentagon, but figured it would be on the other side of the building where all the top brass is located.
Off camera, Jamie tells me that just yesterday his son’s class in middle school had a discussion about the bombing in Oklahoma City. Jamie’s son told the class he always worries about his dad being hurt by an attack like this, because his dad works at the Pentagon. Jamie tried getting word to the school to let his son know he was okay.
1:50 PM: Andrea announces that the Urban Search and Rescue Team from Fairfax County, known as Virginia Task Force 1, has been activated and will be at the Pentagon shortly.
American Airlines now says they aren’t sure where Flight 77 ended up.
WUSA-TV’s Mike Trammel’s shot of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (third from the right) helping carry one of the injured from the Pentagon to a waiting ambulance.
1:56 PM: Admiral Quigley sets the tone for his second briefing by saying “you are going to have a lot more questions than I have answers.” Quigley doesn’t have an answer to the one question all of us are asking. He can only say, “we know there are casualties.”
He tells us Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was among the Pentagon workers hurrying from the building after the explosion. Rumsfeld helped the injured for about 15 minutes, getting several people onto stretchers. Then he went back inside to the National Military Command Center. The command center is reportedly smoky, but not damaged. (NOTE: Approaching the one-year anniversary of the attack, CNN’s Vito Maggiolo contacted me after looking at the raw video from September 11 shot by WUSA-TV photojournalist Mike Trammel. While many people had viewed that video, and all of it played out in front my own eyes, Vito was the only person to notice that one of the men carrying a stretcher with one of the first victims removed from the Pentagon was Secretary Rumsfeld.)
2:10 PM: Virginia Task Force 1 arrives. Normally Fairfax County’s Urban Search and Rescue Team is sent to some far off land by way of military transport. This time it was just a quick drive down Interstate 66 to the county on its eastern border.
2:23 PM: WUSA Photographer Greg Guise is able to provide some details surrounding the hijacked jet that went down in Pennsylvania. Greg grew up a few miles from the crash site and has business interests in the community. Greg relays a description of the scene from a radio engineer friend in Somerset County.
2:43 PM: For the past few hours we’ve seen no ambulances leave the area with lights and siren. We’re pretty certain that anyone alive is already being treated. Now reporter Jennifer Ryan, at the Virginia Hospital Center, confirms no more victims are expected from the Pentagon.
2:49 PM: Mike and Andrea report it’s now fairly clear the plane wreckage at the Pentagon is from American Airlines Flight 77 out of Dulles.
2:55 PM: Rear Admiral Stephen Pietropaoli, U.S. Navy Office of Information, tells us that in the recently renovated wedge of the Pentagon, where the attack occurred, there is blast resistant glass on the windows. In the days to come we hear from many who believe that this very expensive glass saved lives.
3:53 PM: Now briefing us at the Citgo press center, Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clark and Defense Protective Service Chief John Jester. Jester tells us the impact from the jet extends through to the C ring, the middle of the 5 rings of the Pentagon. All we see from our location, is that a portion of the E ring, the outer most portion of the Pentagon, has crumbled.
Clark admits she can’t confirm that all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are accounted for. That news is a bit unsettling. We also hear about a Navy captain who burned his hands rescuing others. Clark says that man is already back from the hospital and wants to be put to work again, helping at the Pentagon.
4:12 PM: Rumors have been spreading that the U.S. military brought down the hijacked plane in Pennsylvania. Rear Admiral Craig Quigley says, “That didn’t happen. I cannot explain to you the cause of the crash of the airplane near Pittsburgh, but it was not engagement by a U.S. fighter aircraft.”
The Pentagon now confirms all the Joint Chiefs are accounted for.
4:54 PM: The second Urban Search and Rescue Team arrives. This one is from Montgomery County, Maryland.
5:04 PM: I see International Association of Firefighters General President, Harold Schaitberger and his press person, George Burke arrive at the Citgo. I grab Harold for a live interview. Harold has been in close touch with his people in New York. We learn for the first time that more than 200 New York firefighters probably perished when the towers collapsed. He calls firefighters “our domestic soldiers”. Schaitberger says the civilian death toll will be in the thousands. Off camera he lets me know that much of FDNY’s command staff was lost, including the Chief of the Department and the head of Special Operations.
5:36 PM: Harold Schaitberger joins me again with the story of two Ft. Meyer firefighters who were at the Pentagon when the crash occurred. They were standing near the fire truck we saw burning this morning. Both men were knocked down and injured by the force of the crash. They helped rescue a group of people through some of the office windows, before the firefighters themselves were hospitalized.
6:42 PM: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield briefs the press. For the first time since the crash, the press conference is held inside the Pentagon. I watch it from our van. Pushed for a body count, Rumsfeld says, “It will not be a few”. The Pentagon “will be in business tomorrow”.
8:45 PM: New information has been slow in coming, but marching up Columbia Pike with the television lights reflecting off his orange vest is a member of Montgomery County’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team. Captain Scott Graham gives us the first solid information about the fire and rescue efforts. Scott becomes a lifeline for information in the days to come.
Despite the large fire still burning, Graham says the USAR team members are always optimistic about finding people alive. He says, “We have to look at it as a rescue effort for us. We have to look at it as a very unstable building. And our job, pretty much, is to take the name of the Pentagon off the outside of it and go in and rescue the people that are in there”.
9:52 PM: Another familiar face shows up at the Citgo. Ed Plaugher is the fire chief of Arlington County. The Pentagon is in Arlington County, Virginia and Chief Plaugher is the man in charge of the fire and rescue operations. None of the other reporters nearby seem to know who Plaugher is, or if they do, they don’t care. Ed joins me live at 10:00 PM with the first solid news about the loss of life at the Pentagon. There are no figures as of yet, but the Pentagon has given him a range to work with. Plaugher says it is believed that anywhere from 100 to 800 people work in the area where the impact occurred. While that is fairly large range, it lets us know that the death toll will likely be in the hundreds at the Pentagon, as compared to the thousands presumed dead in New York. Plaugher’s guess is, when it is over, the number at the Pentagon will be in the low hundreds.
Plaugher later receives some heat when his statements are taken out of context. Some news reports claim Plaugher estimated the death toll at 800. Days later we learn that 125 were killed on the ground and 64 perished aboard Flight 77.
On another topic Chief Plaugher says, “To be honest with you, we always were afraid of the Pentagon as being a target, but never in our wildest dreams to this extent. I am still in disbelief.”
11:03 PM: Fire has broken through in at least four places along the Pentagon roof. Chief Plaugher says aggressive interior firefighting operations will cease until daylight. But, crews overnight, will continue to pour in water from the outside to keep the fire from spreading further.
I relay a phone conversation with Scott Graham a few minutes before our 11:00 PM newscast. Scott and most of the USAR team members from Montgomery and Fairfax Counties worked very closely with Deputy Chief Ray Downey from the Fire Department of New York. Downey, commander of FDNY’s Special Operations, is unaccounted for after the towers collapsed. Scott says Downey commanded all the USAR teams in Oklahoma City after the bombing there. He says Downey wrote the book on urban search and rescue. Skills Downey taught will be utilized in New York and Arlington by hundreds of rescuers in the difficult days to come. His voice cracking, Scott tells me, “We lost a damn good man”.
We lost a lot of good men and women today.
October 27, 2001
11:15 PM: As I am looking back at September 11th, I have just spent a week covering the deaths of two Washington, D.C. postal workers, from inhalation anthrax. Others are hospitalized because of anthrax that was sent through the U.S. Mail. No one knows how this story will play out.
There is a lot of uncertainty since September 11th. Our war efforts, our security in public places, our ability to travel safely by air, our economic future. Like all parents, Hillary and I worry over what this will mean for our young son.
This much I’m sure of. Through the thick smoke hanging over New York and Washington, it became clear that some remarkable people walk among us.
Some are just ordinary citizens who put other people’s lives ahead of their own. Staying behind, trying to make sure everyone gets out.
Others are paid to protect us. But I don’t think anyone believes for a moment that a police officer, paramedic or firefighter’s modest salary is enough to encourage someone to walk into the places that these men and women did on September 11th. It takes much more than money. It takes heart, and courage, and a belief you can make a difference.
I know firefighters the best. Six years in a busy volunteer company during my youth, and almost 30 years making the fire service my beat as a reporter, have given me some perspective.
In many big cities, including our Nation’s Capital, the fire departments have long taken a back seat when it comes to funding. Citizens who can tell you how many times the police patrol car comes down their block, or how many officers are walking the beat, have no idea how many firefighters are on duty in the neighborhood fire station. Political leaders know this to be true and through the years have made drastic cuts in fire protection, often without protest from the public.
Through the years, I have reported many stories where citizens and firefighters have died because of these cuts. Just last week an understaffed ladder company became an issue in Houston, Texas, after a fire captain died in a high-rise apartment building fire.
Firefighters are can-do people. Their skills at making things work under adversity often hides from the public the shortcomings in their staffing, equipment and facilities.
Some of the good that has come from the sacrifices made by the 343 members of FDNY who died on September 11th, is the recognition, by the public, of what firefighters really do.
A recent trip to Arlington County Fire Station #2 brought this home. The firehouse is covered with cards and letters from all over the world. Many are from school children, with drawings of the firefighters in action at the Pentagon and World Trade Center. All say thanks.
Veterans of more than 20 years in the fire service are astounded by the reaction these days as they drive through local streets. People stop and wave. When the firefighters walk into a building in uniform, they are applauded.
On October 7th, I was at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Just two hours before military action in Afghanistan began, President Bush told the stories of some of the 99 domestic soldiers who died in the line of duty in the United States last year. I watched as spouses and children received a flag and a red rose, and heard a bell toll in honor of their loved one, our hero.
I have forced myself on most days since September 11th to read the New York Post, Daily News and Times and the accounts of the daily funerals of New York firefighters. It is difficult to read about the pain their wives and children are going through. It is the least, though, that we can do. It is important to remember this unbelievable sacrifice.
My hope is that people all over the United States are paying very close attention to these same stories of heroism. My hope is that they don’t forget these stories when someone is trying to save a little money and close down their local firehouse.
Right now when Sam sees a fire truck he says, “Evan”. “Revvin’ Evan” is the animated fire engine on that “Jay Jay the Jet Plane” cartoon show he loves. When Sam is old enough, I will make sure he knows a lot more about firefighters. I will make sure Sam understands exactly who those people were climbing up the clogged, smoke filled, stairways, as he sat in his high chair, watching the first pictures transmitted from New York, at 8:52 AM, on September 11th, 2001.
NIOSH released reports into the line of duty deaths of two firefighters whose deaths we covered. Below are the reports and some related links. Both men’s names will be added to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial during Memorial Weekend, October 6 & 7.
January 19, 2011, Baltimore County, MD, Firefighter Mark Falkenhan:
On Tuesday I was in Lower Manhattan for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation viewing Better Angels: The Firefighters of 9/11 (see the video above). As part of Dawn Howkinson’s art work honoring the 343 FDNY firefighters who were killed in the September 11th attacks, the display had names of public safety workers who worked the pile and have since died because of diseases believed related to their efforts. FDNY Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, upon seeing that list Tuesday, lamented that it was continuing to grow. Today’s ruling, allowing for 50 types of cancers to be added to the list of illnesses covered by more than $4 billion dollar 9-11 health fund, is a major development in efforts to compensate and care for those who were exposed to the toxic smoke and dust.
The decision, released on Friday afternoon, came as a vindication for hundreds and perhaps thousands of people who have claimed — often in the face of resistance from public health officials — that their cancers were caused by their exposure to the dust cloud and debris thrown up in the aftermath of the attack.
It will allow not only rescue workers but also volunteers, residents, schoolchildren and passers-by to apply for money to pay for compensation and treatment for cancers developed in the aftermath of the attack. The cancers will not officially be added to the list until after a period of public comment lasting several months.
People who were stricken with cancer after being exposed to the toxic ash that exploded over Manhattan when the World Trade Center collapsed would qualify for free treatment of the disease and potentially hefty compensation payments under a rule proposed Friday by federal health officials.
After months of study, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said in an administrative filing that it favored a major expansion of an existing $4.3 billion 9/11 health program to include people with 50 types of cancer, covering 14 broad categories of the disease.
People with any of the cancers on the list could qualify for treatments and payments as long as they and their doctors make a plausible case that the disease was connected to the caustic dust.
The decision followed years of emotional lobbying by construction workers, firefighters, police officers, office cleaners, and many other people who fell ill in the decade after the terror attack, and were sure it had something to do with the many days they spent toiling in the gray soot.
Mike Brooks is a friend of 30-years who went from being a DC cop and volunteer firefighter in Northern Virginia to TV news. He is a regular on cable’s HLN and, as many of you know, is a big supporter of public safety. This is a video of a recent salute to firefighters from Mike that includes a visit with Rescue Squad 4 in Atlanta.
Like me, Mike is in Indianapolis for FDIC. Mike tells me that on Friday he will be shooting the NFFF 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb for FDIC. Just another reason, if you are here, you should sign up to climb. Click here to register. Hope to see you there.
The video above is from last year’s 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb at FDIC. I had been on a committee at the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation helping plan for the 2011 climbs and I am not sure I truly got it from our meetings and conference calls. It was only after seeing it up close, as I was shooting video for NFFF of the climbers at Lucas Oil Stadium, did I realize what an important and emotional event these climbs are and saw how it’s a wonderful way to remember the sacrifice of 343 firefighters.
But the real impact for me came in December. That’s when I witnessed the firefighters who came up with the idea of the climbs meeting with FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano. It’s not often that you are involved in a charitable event and get to clearly hear how it has helped those it was supposed to help. Commissioner Cassano said the people who climbed in 9-11 Memorial Stair Climbs in 2011 raised enough money to save FDNY Counseling Services Unit programs that were headed for the chopping block due to budget cuts. The fire service should be proud of how they helped their FDNY brothers and the survivors of the fallen.
The event on Friday kicks off the 2012 9-11 Memorial Stair Climbs. Because we have passed the tenth anniversary, September 11th will not be in the eye of the public in the same way it was last year. But we know the firefighters will not forget.
So please join us on Friday. I will be the one with the camera near me asking you all the stupid reporter questions will you are huffing and puffing. It’s perfectly okay to tell me to get lost.
Here’s the link to register. There are only 343 slots available. Each climber will carry a picture of one of the 343 and receive a t-shirt. The cost is $25.
To loosen up before the big climb, I’d love to see you Thursday night at Stop, Drop, Rock and Roll at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, 140 West Washington Street from 7:00 to 11:00 PM. Besides good music and good food (the food was excellent last year), there is a great auction of fire service and other merchandise. The proceeds benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Check out the video below from last year and you will get the idea. Click here to get your tickets online.
This day, twenty-years-ago, was among the toughest I had spent in the news business. Awakened at home, I was told by the assignment desk at Channel 9 in Washington to go to 3807 Walls Lane in Suitland, Maryland for a house fire where it appeared a firefighter had died. By the time I drove from Rosslyn, Virginia to Suitland, I became aware that the firefighter was 18-year-old Kenny Hedrick of Company 27, Morningside.
I didn't know Kenny well, but I knew his family. His father Les was the chief of Morningside and I had known Les and his wife Cathy for more than 15 years, going back to when I was a volunteer in Prince George's County. Even though my reporting on PGFD issues had ruffled some feathers among the volunteer leadership in the county, Les always supported me. I also had worked briefly with Kenny's uncle, Ford Gallagher, when I was a dispatcher for PGFD. As you can imagine, this was a difficult story to cover.
When word came a few days later that Les and Cathy wanted me to interview Ford before the funeral about his nephew, I have to admit I was a bit hesitant. Hearing the stories of this young man whose goal was to follow in his uncle's footsteps and become a career firefighter in Prince George's County, and looking at the pictures of Kenny as a little boy sitting on a Morningside fire engine with Les, were quite emotional. At the church, it was hard to watch these wonderful people I knew dealing with the loss of their child.
Of course, at the time, I had no way of knowing that twenty years later I would be working alongside Cathy Hedrick at the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Cathy transferred her love and her loss into something rather amazing. Firefighters across the country have heard Cathy tell the story of Kenny. Cathy works tirelessly on behalf of the Foundation and on behalf of firefighters. Cathy's efforts, with support from Les, to help make sure that fewer families of firefighters have to experience the pain her family has felt, knows no bounds.
One of the lessons from the fire on Walls Lane was fireground accountability. It was believed that Kenny had left the fireground after pulling a seven-year-old boy from the home. But instead, Kenny was trapped in the basement after going back in to search for more victims. Last year on the anniversary of Kenny's death, Mike Ward at Firegeezer.com looked at how this incident pushed fire departments in the region to conduct regular accountability checks. Click here for that story.
In The Secret List today, Billy Goldfeder, a member of the NFFF board of directors, writes about Kenny, Cathy and Les. Click here.
On January 12th 1992, Engine Company 27 was dispatched for a first due house fire at 3807 Walls Lane in Suitland. Kenny had been in the structure and made a rescue of the family's seven year old son. Kenny reentered the house to search for additional victims. While searching the basement, he became trapped under debris and perished. Kenny had been a member of the department for about two years. Les Hedrick, his father, was Fire Chief at the time but was not on the call. Kenny attended LaPlata High School and had his sights set on becoming a career firefighter in the Washington DC area. Kenny's uncle, Ford Gallagher, at the time was a 12 year veteran of the Prince George's County Fire Department (PGFD). At Kenny's funeral, PGFD Fire Chief Steve Edwards made Kenny a honorary career firefighter in the PGFD. The new Rescue Squad 27 is dedicated to Kenny. Kenny's parents are still active in the department today; Les serves on the Board of Directors as well as being Vice President and his mother Cathy is still active in the Ladies Auxiliary. Both Les and Cathy are active members in the Fallen Firefighters Foundation and are counselors for families of other fallen firefighters across the Nation. Kenny will be missed by his family both in and out of the fire station. His love and devotion to the fire service will live on as an inspiration to all.
Make sure you take some time to sit down and watch this video from the Chicago Fire Department and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. It is a good way to start the new year.
It was produced and directed by the extremely talented Rob Maloney and managed for NFFF by JoEllen Kelly (I would call her the executive producer).
A special, special thank you from Rob, JoEllen, the leadership at NFFF and me to our regular STATter911.com contributor Steve Redick. Steve, graciously opened up his video library to Rob and NFFF for this project.
Of course, these stories could not be told without the cooperation and compassion of Commissioner Robert Hoff, IAFF Local 2, the men and women of the department and the survivors of fallen firefighters from CFD.
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has been working with the family of Hal Bruno to coordinate funeral arrangements. The funeral will take place at 11:00 am on Friday, November 11 at Temple Shalom, 8401 Grubb Road, Chevy Chase, Maryland. The event will be open to anyone wishing to attend. For fire service coordination issues please contact Victor Stagnaro at 240-508-7731 or John Proels at 301-712-7201.
Family, friends and fire service members will be received between 1:00 and 5:00 pm in the Anastasi Room at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, 5020 Battery Lane, Bethesda, Maryland.
Flowers can be sent directly to Temple Shalom, and will be displayed in the front lobby of the synagogue. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, PO Drawer 498, Emmitsburg, Maryland 21727 and marked In Memory of Hal Bruno. A special fund has been established to memorialize his years of service and accomplishments within the American Fire Service Community.
On behalf of the Bruno Family the Foundation would like to express their sincere appreciation for all of the outpouring of love, concern and sympathy received. It truly is a fitting tribute for what Hal meant to all of us and a testament to the legacy he leaves.
To me, Hal Bruno is one of the most important figures in the history of this country's fire service. Hal died last night at age 83. I imagine that many of the younger firefighters and a few older ones who read this site aren't familiar with the name Hal Bruno. Hal wasn't a fire chief and his expertise wasn't in fireground tactics, hazardous materials, truck company or engine company operations. Hal's specialty was firefighters. He was the best friend a firefighter and the fire service could have.
But Hal Bruno wasn't the friend who just slapped you on the back and told you what you wanted to hear. Hal cared enough to tell us all what we needed to hear.
Whether it was through his "Fire Politics" column in Firehouse Magazine, or in countless talks and presentations at conventions and seminars, or privately with fire chiefs and union leaders, Hal Bruno provided invaluable guidance, counseling and advice on how the fire service could win the hearts and minds of the American public, elected officials and other government leaders. The effort behind the victory at the polls in Ohio for firefighters and other government workers at the same time Hal was leaving us is right out of the Hal Bruno playbook.
Hal knew that it took a lot more than just doing the job of fighting fires and saving lives to secure the resources needed to have an effective fire department that is properly supported by the people it serves. Hal Bruno's decades of work helped create the modern fire service leader who not only knows his or her way around the fireground but who can also navigate the corridors of City Hall or Congress and answer the tough questions from a reporter.
Hal shared with all those connected to the fire service what he learned from his long career as a political reporter. He was a distinguished observer of the political scene. After 18 years at Newsweek, Hal Bruno became the political director for ABC News. He had direct contact with those elected to lead this country. In 1992 Hal moderated the Vice Presidential debate between Dan Quayle, Al Gore and James Stockdale. It was one of the liveliest of these type of debates (click here and take a look for yourself) with the unflappable Hal Bruno in the middle of it trying to keep order. A style that served him well when he kept the politicians and the fire chiefs (and their egos) in check after assuming the role of MC at the annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner in Washington.
But Hal Bruno did show bias and exactly where he stood when it came to firefighters. As Hal related to many, he was practically raised in a Chicago firehouse and always felt indebted to firefighters. He later became a volunteer firefighter and was a member of many fire service organizations, including DC's Friendship Fire Association. It was not unusual to see Hal on a multi-alarm fire in the Nation's Capital handing out coffee on a cold winter's night.
Being there for firefighters took on a new meaning, well beyond providing refreshments and giving advice on politics, when Hal Bruno became a charter member of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation's Board of Directors in 1993. In a big way, Hal Bruno was now able to practice what he had been preaching to firefighters for so many years. He used his political skill and insight to help guide the Foundation in its role of honoring the fallen and caring for their survivors. In 1999 he took over as Chairman of the Board.
His accomplishments in that role were many. They will long have impact on the safety and well-being of firefighters and the survivors of those who died in the line of duty. Current Chairman Dennis Compton and Executive Director Ron Siarnicki continue to build on that legacy.
In his final years as chairman, Hal Bruno worked tirelessly to make sure the families of fallen firefighters received federal benefits promised them. I listened to Hal, of course, explain the politics behind the issue as we stood watching the Georgetown Library burn in April, 2007.
At that time I had already been listening to Hal for almost 40 years. I first became aware of his as a young teenager reading my parents' Newsweek. But the name Hal Bruno became permanently etched in my mind in1974, the same year I became a volunteer firefighter. What caught my attention was an article he had written for Argosy Magazine about the 1958 Our Lady of the Angels fire in Chicago that killed 92 school children and three nuns. It was a tragedy that Hal Bruno witnessed. Hal's recounting of that event and his analysis of fire safety in the United States made such an impression on me, to this day, I have held onto that magazine.
Like many of you, I also became a big fan of Hal's columns on politics when Firehouse began publishing in 1976. In 1983 I finally got to meet Hal Bruno. That was when Rich Adams, the editorial director at Channel 9, who worked across the alley when I was a reporter at WTOP Radio, invited me to a cookout at the Bruno home in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Hal and Rich were close friends who shared a bond of journalism, bluegrass music and the fire service. Rich wrote the EMS column for Firehouse and was a long time member of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad.
While jazz is more my style, I was on board with the rest of what these two had to offer. In fact, both Hal and Rich were important influences on my career. They showed me how to combine a job in broadcast news with a passion for firefighting. In addition, when I went to work at Channel 9 in 1985, Hal and Rich each gave me a great deal of encouragement, and even some news tips.
In 1996 Hal asked me to fill in for an ill Rich Adams, who each year hosted the annual satellite telecast of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Memorial Service. When Hal called I really wasn't sure this was something I should be doing as a reporter who covered the fire service. Hal reassured me that it was fine and essentially held my hand through the first year's broadcast. Sadly, Rich passed away not long after Memorial Weekend. I kept coming back to Emmitsburg year after year because no one, including Hal, told me not to. I was learning that this connection to NFFF was something quite important to me and will always be grateful to Hal for making it a part of my life.
Despite all that I've written here, I am not the biggest Hal Bruno fan in my family. That honor goes to my wife Hillary Howard. In 2002 Hillary helped produce the Candlelight Service for Memorial Weekend when it was held in Washington, DC because of the large loss from September 11, 2001. She will tell you that the highlight of those couple of months was working with Hal.
Hillary often talks about Hal's warmth, charm, intelligence, smile and quiet strength. All of those attributes were still on display for us one last time, a month ago, as we stopped and chatted with Hal and his beautiful wife Meg in the dining hall at Emmitsburg at the end of Memorial Weekend. As we caught up, the conversation quickly turned to a mutual friend who had recently found himself forced out of a fire department job. Hal Bruno, of course, wanted to hear all about the politics behind this move.
It should be noted that Hal Bruno died on election day.