Loveland-Symmes, Ohio Deputy Fire Chief Billy Goldfeder, a contributor to Firehouse Magazine who runs the website FireFighterCloseCalls.com The Secret List email group, responds to the FDNY's decision on July 27 to publicize the fact that it does not support or endorse the Remembrance Rescue Project.
The initial impression based upon their statements to those who have visited their display in past months was that collected/donated funds were being raised for "firefighters lost on duty" and to educate people on 9/11. It appears that the great majority of the donated funds are actually used to support running and maintaining their trucks. If that is a fact, then that's what ought to be clearly stated. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with that, in my opinion, just make the mission and use of funds crystal clear so there can never be any question on intent.
I don't think there will ever be "too many" groups out there honoring Firefighters (and supporting related families and causes) who gave their lives - but I feel the message can be confusing. Perhaps they should much more clearly state that they have purchased old FDNY rescue trucks and in order to fulfill their mission to bring the truck(s) to a community, they need to sell shirts or accept donations to primarily support the maintenance and upkeep of these trucks. If that's the case and it's very clear, then there is no reason why anyone should be concerned about supporting them.
Obviously there is historical value to these trucks that they bought at auction...but also priceless emotional value. Like anything that was a part of the most tragic event on American soil, the sensitivities justifiably run extremely high---especially to those whose family and friends were murdered on 9/11. The trucks themselves (to so many) represent where their "loved ones" died-it's a big deal and equal to what many consider extremely "sacred ground." These are not just trucks bought at auction, and I'm surprised they were even auctioned off. None of us can minimize the extreme sensitivity that exists related to "anything 9/11" because the sensitivity very personally belongs exclusively to those most impacted-the members of FDNY and their families and friends. It's very, very personal to that very exclusive group of survivors - and I think at times, people outside of them, as well intentioned as they may be, can lose focus, have trouble or are incapable of fully understanding just how deep the emotions run.
There are some very successful and visibly supported and embraced groups that have helped the FDNY and related survivors with funds as well as educating the public on 9/11. Groups such as the September 11th Families Association, The Terry Farrell Fund, The Ray Downey Fathers Day Run, The Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award and the 9//11 Tribute Center---just to name a few who set the example. Each of their missions and how their funding is used is very clear and up front following all laws and regulations without question or "gray" area.
To be very clear, the Rescue Remembrance project is not anything at all like the New Jersey felons we wrote about last week. Those felons are being charged, for driving around the USA in a red pickup collecting thousands of dollars in donations for family members - that they kept for themselves. These N.J. jerks drove around in their "National 9/11 Memorial Truck" with the names of the more than 400 first responders who were murdered. But because of clowns like that-and others who have also been making money off those murdered, there are many reasons for anyone to be cautious.
Add the fact that FDNY sent this message out on social media last week: "A group called the “Remembrance Rescue Project” is touring the country with old FDNY Rescue apparatus. We have asked them repeatedly to remove all references to the FDNY from the apparatus, website, videos, etc. They have not and they continue to collect donations using our name. We do not endorse or support this project. Please share this information with your friends and family".
And we did.
Emotions run high when it comes to 9/11 and-as they do when any Firefighter is killed in the Line of Duty. And emotions should run absolutely high. The positive news is that the folks who run the Rescue Remembrance Project are removing the FDNY logos, affiliated emblems to make clear their mission. I and others have personally committed to help them get connected with each of the above listed organizations so they can gain the understanding and knowledge that is needed, as well as support, to make the Rescue Remembrance Project the success they envision. "Gray" areas, unclear communication and even the slightest questions on representation (as unintentional as it may be) related to tragic losses leads to high emotions, just as clear and improved communication clarifies a mission of trying to do the right thing.