Editorial: The American Way

An old friend called; he said he was in trouble. I told him I think we can help. My friend Lee Ielpi, a retired firefighter from FDNY's Rescue 2, stopped by the other day. Lee's son Jonathan, a firefighter in Squad 288, was killed during the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Lee was and still is a tough, aggressive firefighter. He worked with some of the best firefighters in the city. When his friend Captain Marty McTigue was critically burned by steam at an incident, it was Lee who helped Marty and his family for months.

Lee worked at ground zero for months and was more fortunate than most in that he was able to bring his son home intact from the pile. Lee is part of the Coalition of 9/11 Families. This group represents the memorial position of thousands of family members, survivors, rescue workers and concerned Americans. From their information: The future memorial at the World Trade Center site is America's Memorial and must be treated with the same historical reverence as comparable sites in U.S. history such as Pearl Harbor, Gettysburg and the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Our society and future generations should learn from the horrible tragedy of 9/11 and the strength of humanity in the aftermath to end terrorism. The World Trade Center Memorial Complex should become a living memorial, evolving over time with a mission to inspire visitors and reaffirm life.

The powers that be want to rebuild the office space at ground zero and build a bus garage where the WTC towers' footprint was located. How thoughtful of them. Future plans call for the unidentified remains of those lost at the site be returned to ground zero from the morgue, making it their final resting place. It would be nice, as many suggest, to think about the memorial site first, then rebuild. But it's all about money. We should thank those responsible for having the foresight to preserve places like Gettysburg, the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor and Oklahoma City. Millions visit these sites each and every year. I urge you to read Lee's letter, starting on page 8. Then visit www.memorialfor911.com.

After 9/11, many contributed to the FDNY and firefighters in general in consideration of the way in which the tragedy affected this special group of lifesavers cut down in their prime, casualties in a new war on American soil. You have done a lot, donating money, attending funerals and memorial services, and supporting the fire service and the families who lost loved ones as a whole. Despite the tragedy, the fire service never shined as bright as it did in the days and weeks following 9/11. You need to visit this website and fill in the form letters to reach the necessary politicians. This is almost as important as the activities after 9/11 and will have as longlasting an effect as the tragedy itself. You stepped up to the plate almost two years ago, we need you to come to the plate in this extremely important project that will affect Americans. When and if they build a 1,776-foot-high tower at the World Trade Center site, who do you think the experts will call when they have an emergency? This is the emergency of the moment. Won't you please answer this emergency call? Thank you.

All of the fire magazines have agreed to run Lee's letter because of the importance of the message. The fire service magazines have also agreed to run a series of articles on "Professional Status: The Future of Fire Service Training and Education." This series is written by Dr. Denis Onieal, the superintendent of the National Fire Academy. This first installment of this important series can be found on page 82.