CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - On Sept. 11, 2001 following the tragic World Trade Center incident, Charlottesville firefighters were lining up to assist in New York City. Like many fire departments across the country, it was difficult to restrain them. Everyone wanted to help, but understood that self...
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Photo courtesy of Charlottesville FD
New York City firefighters were honored at the University of Virginia's homecoming football game and received a check for $250,000 to aid the families of firefighters lost at the World Trade Center. Representing the FDNY were, from left, Firefighters Rich Amthor and Joe Gildea and Lieutenants Jimmy Milone and Charlie Noteworthy.
The next step in "doing something" was to inform the Virginia Department of Emergency Management what resources that were available from the department. The Charlottesville Fire Department offered an engine company and will continue to stand ready to respond if and when needed. Very quickly, a list of approximately 25 firefighters' names were on a list to fill four slots to deploy on short notice and spend up to two weeks in New York.
That wasn't enough. Discussions continued throughout the fire stations about what to do for the fallen brother and sister firefighters in New York.
The first thing was to erect a memorial which consisted of a sign which read "God Bless America and FDNY," a pair of boots and two fire department T-shirts tied together at the sleeve (a Charlottesville and an FDNY shirt).
The memorial quickly grew and money started coming in without any request. But that wasn't enough. On Sept. 13, Charlottesville and Albemarle firefighters (career and volunteer) along with the Charlottesville and Albemarle Professional Firefighters Associations, started "boot" drives to collect money. The first day was expressed by many firefighters as the most inspiring experience of their lives.
Photo courtesy of Charlottesville FD
Charlottesville Fire Chief Julian Taliaferro, center, joins local and New York City firefighters at a memorial site.
"People were literally throwing money at us," said a captain from the Albemarle Fire-Rescue Department. The firefighters at all intersections were having the same results, literally thousands of dollars per hour. A goal of $25,000 was set. Each day, the totals increased in unbelievable amounts. The first day $42,000, the second $80,000, and the third day over $100,000. Eventually, the total exceeded $300,000.
The fire departments chose to use the "New York Firefighters Fire 9-11 Relief Fund" as the fund of choice. This fund has been established by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and is partnered on the Firehouse.com website.
The interaction with the public was so overwhelming, many firefighters had to stop (while collecting with boots) and cry. School buses with high school students stopped and all of them giving what they had in their pockets. One night, a little girl got up on table and sang the national anthem for firefighters at a steakhouse. People stood and cheered and no firefighter was left with a dry eye.
One woman gave the Charlottesville Fire Department her flag from her honored husbands World War II American flag to fly at a fire station. Another woman gave firefighters a large family flag which has been flown every day high from the department's aerial ladder. The fire department is being requested at many new functions as never before.
In an overwhelming gesture of kindness, Carl Smith, a University of Virginia (UVA) alumnus, sent his private jet to bring four FDNY firefighters to the homecoming football game on Sept. 29. UVA produced a pre-game show that honored firefighters from the FDNY and the Charlottesville area. This allowed the community to participate in the ceremony and see local firefighters give a check for $250,000 to the four from New York. While four were flown down, 20 more were ready to come.
The FDNY members flown in were Lieutenant Charlie Noteworthy and Firefighter Joe Gildea of Ladder 15 and Lieutenant Jimmy Milone and Firefighter Rich Amthor of Engine 4. As the men from FDNY walked onto the field, the audience roared with applause and stood for a full ovation. Next, "America the Beautiful" was sung and Charlottesville Fire Department Ladder 1 raised its aerial with the U.S. flag waving in the breeze.