Firefighters From All Over Help FDNY Honor Fallen

Firefighters from all over the country -- and beyond -- were in New York City Saturday morning and many of them joined members of the FDNY at the Labor Day Parade on Fifth Avenue. 9/11 Page

Loomis, Calif. Fire Chief David Wheeler and his son-in-law Clarke Caldwell, a firefighter/paramedic from Tracey, Calif., made the cross-country trip with their families in order to pay their respects.

Wheeler helped with the recovery effort following the attacks as part of Task Force 4, but said he felt like he had to come back.

"I never got an opportunity to honor the fallen," he said. "It was a really moving experience to be here then and it was a defining part of my career."

Caldwell was just starting his career in the fire service in 2001, and said the events that day made him want to do his job to the best of his ability.

"It instilled in me a desire to help people and I was inspired at how the firefighters here helped each other."

Tom Ryan, President of the Chicago Firefighters Union, was surrounded by colleagues who made the trip.

"We just wanted to pay our respects for those who lost their lives," he said. "It's been 10 years since this whole thing went down and we want to keep the memory alive."

FDNY Rescue 2 Capt. Liam Flaherty -- also the drum major of the Emerald Society Pipes and Drums -- said all of the support has helped.

"There are brothers and sisters from all over the world here now from fire services from as far away as Australia," he said. "I kind of feel like right now they are lifting us up, putting us on our feet again and making us feel better."

Flaherty was at home when he got the call that morning from someone at his firehouse, then Rescue 4. He could see one of the towers burning from the window of his apartment and went directly to the station.

"We were waiting for our captain but we didn't realize that he had been on overtime and was actually down there already," he said. "The delay in waiting for him actually saved the rest of lives. By the time that we got down there, the second tower had already fallen."

Firefighter Pat Carr from Ladder 43 started working the July before 9/11.

"We were just through training and everything just happened all at once. It was just sort of a real trial by fire for a lot of the new guys," he said. "We learned pretty quick. It was nothing like anyone had ever seen before."

Kevin Cunningham had retired as a firefighter at Engine 55 in 2000, and was at home when he found out what happened. His wife worked at a hospital but when they realized the hospitals weren't taking many people due to the small number of survivors, he joined the recovery effort.

"The initial effort, down at Ground Zero, we were trying to see where we would go next, who was available. We tried to use the manpower we had the best we can."

He was in and out for three days at Ground Zero before they began pulling crews back as other volunteers came in to help.

In the last 10 years there has been a lot of change, but Cunningham said that the department has done a good job at moving forward.

"The guys are younger and the experience is just getting up there now where it was back before 9/11," he said. "We have a great bunch of guys still. The job hasn't changed in that respect. We still have the manpower there, guys who love the job. Now it's just the matter of having to adjust to a new way of life."