Speak Up 6/12

In March of this year, I had the good fortune to travel from Florida to Ireland as an official representative from Ocala Fire Rescue. Two police officers from the Ocala Police Department accompanied me as we journeyed to Ireland for one week to spend time in Ocala’s twin town named Newbridge. A short distance from Dublin, Newbridge is in County Kildare. The twin-town concept, popular in Europe, brings cities together to promote exchanges of cultural and educational opportunities.

The delegation from Ocala had the honor to march in the 2012 St. Patrick’s Day parade in dress uniform and participate in many official activities over the course of a week. Everything we experienced – the Irish culture, the generosity and friendliness of its people and the country’s natural beauty – were incredible.

During our visit, our hosts in Newbridge transported us to Donadea Forest Park. We were escorted to an area featuring two stone monuments in the shape of the New York City’s twin towers, destroyed on 9/11. Engraved on four sides of the two monuments are names of all the emergency responders who were killed in the World Trade Center attack. A concrete pad surrounding the stone monument contains embossed insignias of the Fire Department of New York, the New York Police Department and the Port Authority. After saying a silent prayer, we each laid a yellow rose at the memorial and cried together with our Irish brothers and sisters who were present.

The monument was placed in County Kildare because Firefighter Sean Tallon of FDNY Ladder 10 was one of the victims and his family came from Donadea. The serene park also features benches where you can sit to reflect on the tragedy that occurred, each bench dedicated to the passengers and crew of one of the airliners. A grove of oak trees are planted in remembrance of the fallen, and a poem and description of the monument are displayed on a sign.

It is humbling to know our fallen brothers and sisters are remembered by our friends in Ireland. My wish is that you will be able to visit the Donadea Forest Park one day, and experience firsthand the generosity, compassion and good will of our friends in Ireland.

Brian Stoothoff

Battalion Chief

Ocala Fire Rescue

Ocala, FL

The writer is a 29-year veteran with Ocala Fire Rescue. He received a Firehouse® Magazine 2009 Heroism & Community Service Award.