Thursday, December 26, 2013

9/11 Through Allies Eye

Allie Hill
She's 19, blind in one eye, thinks like an 8 year old, has short flat thumbs and toes, and other so called abnormalities. But to us, she is our daughter and we could never imagine any other version of Allie. Ask her what 9/11 means to her and she will tell you, " 9/11 is when planes flew into buildings and killed a lot of people." But she knows so much more...

About Allie: At birth, the doctors told us she would be blind, unable to talk, unable to walk-speak-or even read. One doctor, who was also a good friend of ours, thought it best if we think about institutionalizing Allie to save our marriage. Some friend!

We spent the first two years just trying to keep Allie alive. At one year, Allie was just a little bigger than her birth weight and failed to thrive. We fought every day to keep food in her and watched her every movement. Allie was my wife's new full devotion in life as she had to quit her job. We pulled out all the stops to insure our daughter had the best chance at as much of a "normal" life as possible.With my 48 hour schedule at the fire department, I spent many of my off days with her as well. It was truly a team effort.

With around the clock physical, speech and other necessary therapists, she began to grow and thrive. It took 3 years but she crawled--it took 5 years but she walked--it took 7 years but she talked. We even had her plugged into Equestrian Therapy which helped her develop and overcome the hurtles typical with special needs development. 

It used to bother me when people starred. Yes she looked different and not so "normal" but who is really normal anyway? It bothered me because she was my daughter and I loved her so much. I guess people did not see what we saw. 

She was diagnosed with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome at birth and many of these rare (1 in 300,000) special needs children had many abnormalities including; blindness, digital defects, microcephally, significant mental delays and other issues similar to downs syndrome. 

Allie grew to read, write and have pretty normal conversations with people. In fact at times, if it wasn't for how people viewed her, she would fit in pretty well. She is a miracle and all the hard work and determination has paid off!

Back to 9/11: Allie was about 7 when September 11, 2001 came. She sat in the bed between my wife and I and saw the 2nd plane hit the WTC towers. She saw us cry and began crying. She may not have realized what was happening but she shared our emotions. As we saw the first tower fall, Allie watched it with us. She hadn't fully developed her speech at that point in her life but was able to ask the question, "Daddy was there people in that building?" 

Having witnessed the death of 1000's of people and knowing there were also brother firefighters in the buildings, I held her tight and tried my best to explain what she saw.  She knew what death was when we told her that my mother and father had both died before she was born. But this was very different to her. For the first time she had actually seen buildings full of people fall and she knew....she understood the finality.

Shortly after the tragic events of 9/11, I began the 9-11 Patch Project as my reaction and vision of hope. Being a firefighter on the west coast, I felt far removed. Knowing others would feel the same way, the 9-11 Patch became a way to remember my brother firefighters lost that day and to help others around the world unite. The project would also become a way to raise funds and share the proceeds with organizations that would develop post-9/11. Allie stood by me as the project grew to include the participation of over 10,000 organizations around the world. She was there asking questions and helping all these years.

Allie grew up with the 9-11 Patch Project and with 9/11. Having run this project for 12 years of her life, she now understands what the patches, decals and other memorial items are about. In fact, she probably knows more about 9/11 than most people out there.

Today, over 12 years since we cried together in front of the TV, she knows beyond the tragedy of 9/11 that a glimmer of light shines. She knows the Firefighters, EMT's, Police Officers, U.S,. Soldiers and innocent civilians are being remembered. She no longer remembers planes flying into buildings or crashing to the ground--she remembers the victims and knows her daddy is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they are always remembered.



Monday, December 16, 2013

9-11 Patch Project Hits Twelve Year Mark

2001 Unveiling of new 9-11 Patch to honor the FDNY 343
December 15th, 2013, marked the 12th anniversary of the 9-11 Patch Project. As the photo shows, the design for a uniform patch that 1st Responders could wear to honor the fallen, was unveiled to the FDNY Thank You America Tour, as it ended in Pasadena, California.

6 FDNY bike riders from the Bowery's 33-Engine, who lost 12 of their own, made this 2800 mile trip across America to thank American's for their outpouring of love and support. Their tour ended in Pasadena (west coast) about 1 mile from the 9-11 Patch Project founders station.

Aligning the project with the FDNY and getting their blessing was founder Brett Hill's 1st priority. Two months from the date of this ceremony and when the photo was taken, December 15th, the project began taking orders from fire departments and other organizations around the nation. Orders for the patch would come in to the Valencia project headquarters at 25-50 per day for about 6 months. By the 1st anniversary date of September 11 or 9-11-02, $15,000 arrived in the FDNY Uniformed Firefighters office. This was the net proceeds of selling the $3 patches.

Over the past 12 years, the project grew to include all 1st Responders and our U.S. Military. To date, there are over 10,000 organizations in 30 countries participating. The project also added other patches, decals, a challenge coin, memorial shield and other memorial items.

Beyond the fund raising from the merchandise, other events were held to benefit charities like The Bravest
Scholarship Fund, Terry Farrell Fund and the Feal Good Foundation. The 10 yr 9-11 Manhattan to Manhattan Tour, with FireCareers as the major sponsor, was a large 9-11 Bus that traveled from Manhattan Beach in California to Manhattan NY in 9 months. The tour brought about awareness of the 10 year mark and raised funds at the 275 stops in 30 U.S. States.

The Fully Involved Comedy Tour, featuring comedian Ralphie May, was held in Baltimore during the Firehouse Expo in July of 2012.

Today, with 9-11 a little over 12 years behind us, the 9-11 Patch Project continues to perpetuate the memory of the fallen heroes of 9-11 and raise funds whenever possible. It's tough to keep this project in the minds of folks twelve years later, but the 9-11 Patch Project continues to do it's best. Without the support of so many out there, we would not be around today.

In closing, our latest event is a fund raiser to give the 9-11 Patches to all 11,000 members of the FDNY. This will cost about $15,000 and we are on our way with $983 raised by 23 donors in the past 20 days. With thousands around the world wearing the patch, it makes sense to include the very firefighters who's tragic loss on that day became the inspiration for this project. We don't want any of them to have to pay for these patches. Those who step up are rewarded with patches and challenge coins and their names will go in each patch donation letter that is sent to the FDNY. If you'd like to be part of this great event, please follow this link: http://www.gofundme.com/5gneuk 

Thanks to all of you who have supported this project so many years! We appreciate you all as I'm sure the families of the fallen heroes do. More about the project HERE

Monday, July 15, 2013

Not Just Another 9/11

Meet Chief Jack Reed of the Marion Fire Dept. in Illinois. In mid 2002, the Marion FD made the decision to support the 9-11 Patch Project's effort to remember the heroes of 9-11 and add the 9-11 Patch to their uniforms. Evident by the photo of Chief Read still wearing the 9-11 Patch, WE WILL NEVER FORGET means never!

It has been nearly 12 years since the tragic events of 9/11 and there are over 10,000 organizations out there in more than 30 countries that have made that promise to NEVER FORGET by wearing one of the 9-11 Patches. In fact, there are millions of organizations out there that have also made that promise and don't wear a patch.

Do we all need to wear a patch to make that promise? No. But those who have made the 9-11 Patch a part of their uniforms or other official clothing, proudly enforce that promise visually, to one another and members of the public.

The 9-11 Patch Project only came about because of four words spoken by an FDNY firefighter at Ground Zero as he was saying goodbye to the LAFD Task Force back in September of 2011, "PLEASE DON'T FORGET US." Those four words inspired a firefighter from Los Angeles, California, to heed the call for help back in December of 2011. It became one man's mission and grew to become the mission of millions around the world to make a promise to NEVER FORGET. Taking the proceeds from the sale of the patches and donating them to 9/11 related organizations in need, was the icing on the cake.

Beating the WE WILL NEVER FORGET drum constantly over the years is a difficult thing to do--the sound is fading yet the mission continues as strong as ever. Honoring the lives of our fallen heroes must go on as lives continue to be lost as a result of 9/11--from cancer and respiratory deaths related to working the pile for months and years following 9/11, to suicides related to PTSD and Survival Guilt. Just ask John Feal, founder of the Feal Good Foundation, who is the nations strongest and most visible advocate for the health rights of 1st Responders. He has lost many friends since 9/11 and continues to lose them at as many as 30+ monthly.

9/11 is not just a part of our history...it is a part of our lives today...even 12 years later.

Selling the patches and other 9/11 themed merchandise does two things: 1. It provides a means for others to
honor the memory of the fallen and 2. provides funds to keep the 9-11 Patch Project Fund going so that funds can be raised and donated to the 9/11 charities supported over the years.

The 9-11 Patch Project owes a great deal of gratitude to the NEVERFORGET911 facebook page founder, Rich Karns, for all his help in getting the word out to fans of the site. At the time the 9-11 Patch Project founder teamed up with Karns (nearly 4 years ago) the site had about 100k fans. Today, the site is the most interactive and supported 9/11 related facebook page with over 450,000 fans.

Without the help of Karns and all the incredible Sponsors, the project doors would have closed long ago.

Will the 9-11 Patch Project continue? That is entirely up to the support that comes in from the public, public safety, military and other companies/organizations.

In closing, thanks to Chief Reed for his leadership and his willingness to continue to beat the Never Forget drum. Thanks to the thousands of organizations out there that have joined the Chief, thanks to Rich Karns for his work on facebook and finally, thanks to all the sponsors for believing in this project all these years.

Please visit the site and see how you can help and get involved today. Visit the website here: 9-11 Patch Project






Friday, June 21, 2013

They Put on Their Gloves and Showed up to Help



As a former firefighter of 20 years and the founder of the 9/11 Patch Project, I am always excited when a company like HexArmor steps up to become our sponsor! Glove making is a science to HexArmor and they make top-of-the-line products that protect our 1st Responders-- a great fit to our growing list of $911 Sponsors who are giving back.

I met the folks of HexArmor at their booth during this years Firehouse World in San Diego. We also had a booth there. From time to time, I would go out and meet some of the folks on the exhibit floor. What really drew me to HexArmor's booth was their professionalism and kindness. I also noticed from a little distance, it was not just about how they could make a sale or two...it was also about listening to visitors and learning about what folks needs are for hand, arm and body protection. And, spending time with folks like me who come by to talk about sponsorships and other non-glove/body protection stuff was pretty cool. Don't get me wrong, if I had the dough I would have come home with a hand full (get it?). Talk about eye-candy, these gloves were the most colorful protective gloves I'd ever seen!

Even with all the marketing and promotion we do for our sponsors, HexArmor really seemed to care more about how they can help and get involved. So why did they step up? In their own words;  

"HexArmor® strongly believes in supporting causes who share the same beliefs and goals as we do. We believe the 9-11 Patch Project is an example of one such cause – an organization who is not there for themselves, but one who supports and honors the heroes who are continually working hard and making sacrifices to protect and help the public. This belief falls in line with what we, at HexArmor®, constantly try to do: find safety solutions to help those who are risking not only their safety, but their lives, for us.


We, at HexArmor®, believe that sponsoring this project means remembering those from the 9/11 tragedy who gave of themselves, so that others might not only live, but also give. We hope that others will join us and dedicate their efforts to remember and support all the brave men and women who never give up, and are willing to protect, no matter the cost."

So we welcome HexArmor to the 9/11 Patch Project family and thank them for stepping up to sponsor us! 
We thank them for honoring the heroes of 9/11 and look forward to working with them at future fund raising events across the U.S. And hey, if you need great protective gloves for just about any use, why not stop by and see our friends at HexArmor?

Please also visit HexArmor on FACEBOOK and TWITTER and say hello.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Four Words & 12 Years

We met for a brief moment at a local Starbucks in Valencia, California- one month after the tragic events of 9/11/01. Steve Berkery was assigned to LAFD USAR Task Force and had just returned from a tour of duty at Ground Zero, Manhattan. I asked him what moved him the most and he told me it was one FDNY Firefighter's four words, "Please don't forget us."

These four words led me to attempt something that has never been done--design a tribute patch and try and get all firefighters to add it to their uniforms. The 9/11 Patch Project was born and the attempt to notify and get all fire departments on board, began in December of 2001. Funds raised from the sale of the $3 patches would benefit the FDNY's Uniformed Firefighters Association. After 6 months of selling the patches, $15,000 was raised and sent to the UFA on the 1 year anniversary of 9/11. Our initial costs were $18,000 for mailers and about $1.75 per patch. In addition to my full time firefighter/paramedic position, I worked about 40 additional hours per week for nearly 6 months, filling 25-50 orders each day. Orders ranged from many 1-2  patch orders to as many as 500 in one order. By the way, the 500 patch order came from a Hong Kong Fire Officer who bought them for many of his firefighters in China!

Nearly 12 years later, there are over 10,000 organizations in 30 countries that have stepped up to participate in the project. This includes firefighters (domestic and abroad) and deployed U.S. Troops. Photos of firefighters and soldiers were sent in over the years by those proud to count themselves among those who would make a promise to Never Forget.

Even though I was a firefighter reacting to the loss of 343 brothers, it made sense to create a patch with a firefighter, police officer and soldier on it for the 5-year anniversary date of 9/11. Decals, pins, and even a 9/11 Challenge Coin was created later to provide more fund raising merchandise.

How did we survive 12 years?  Aside from the 1st 9 months of fund raising, sales for the 9/11 themed fund
raising merchandise have been very sporadic. So, other fund raising projects needed to be designed and implemented to both raise funds for 9/11 related organizations and for the 9/11 Patch Project Fund; our own fund that was put in place August of 2011 so that we can keep our project running. The 10 Yr 9-11 Manhattan to Manhattan Bus tour was created as a fund raising 10 yr anniversary awareness trip across the United States. The tour ran 9 months--18,000 miles--176 stops and our major sponsor, Fire Careers, drove the bus and met with firefighters and citizens at every stop. $20,000 was raised despite the bus arriving in areas met with some of our nation's largest and most destructive disasters--including Joplin, MO, where the large 40 foot bus had to run for cover. The 9/11 Bus arrived in D.C. in time for the earthquake and in New York right when the hurricane hit Manhattan.

How can you help? We depend heavily on our $911 Sponsor program to keep the project afloat--problem is, many say they will step up and sponsor and few actually do. The program started during the 9/11 Bus trip where we picked up Chicago Firefighters, Philadelphia Firefighters, Baltimore Firefighters, Cataret Firefighters and Northrop Grumman, among others, as $911 Sponsors.

Back then, we put our sponsor logos on the side of the giant bus and thousands would see them as it traveled across the U.S. for months. Today, we do things a bit differently. You see, we feel if you are willing to step up and help us out, we are willing to promote your organization from our website, blog, newsletters, 4 Facebook pages, press releases, trade shows and Twitter. It is no secret that our promotion works--we have plenty of testimonials we can send those with cold feet. Many will still spend thousands for trade magazine ad's when they can spend far less with us and get tons more promotion.

The 9/11 Patch Project is the largest, longest running and farthest reaching firefighter owned 9/11 project in the world. We are proud to make that claim and hope that you consider helping us continue to do great work all over the world to remember the heroes of 9/11. We need heroes too--become ours HERE.

Brett Hill- Former Firefighter/Paramedic & Founder
9/11 Patch Project



Friday, May 17, 2013

Companies Stepping up on Behalf of 9/11 Organizations



What do you say to firefighter owned companies like HazSim that step up to sponsor non profit efforts like the 9/11 Patch Project? You say "Thanks" and do all you can to support their efforts that happen to improve the safety of firefighters around the world!

Money is tight for everyone--especially for relatively new companies. The 9/11 Patch Project realizes that so it becomes more about giving back to us, than just about accepting donations. Sure we need the money to stay afloat but we also believe it is our duty to step up as well and show our support through our social networking channels. That is why our Sponsor programs are not just about receiving donations--they are also about doing some round-the-clock promotion for those companies that step up for us. And we are getting pretty good at it!


HazSim was a natural fit for us as the HAZMAT training simulation software was something we felt would really be contributing to more firefighter and industrial workers longevity. Afterall, the owner is a Fire Captain at a major Southern California fire department and has been saving lives for many years. So he saw a need to improve firefighter safety and came up with a great product that he can use to save the lives of his brother firefighters.

So what is HazSim? I personally had the opportunity to see it work and it clicked with me right away. It is
software built into a device that HAZMAT personnel are use to using. During training at any given organization, a HAZMAT tech suits up, carries his monitor to a specific location. He scans the area with his device and and instructor from another location actually sends them data about the hazardous environment they may be walking into. The instructor can also make the process more interactive by sending the tech some Q & A relating to the environment. Until HazSim came along, training consisted of a static environment where a tech in training may just approach a simulated hazardous situation and see a note pinned to the door about what type of dangerous chemicals may be inside. HazSim has evolved HAZMAT training and people should take notice!

If you are a fire department or any other organization that deals with hazardous environments, I recommend that you take a long hard look at HazSim and what they are doing to improve the safety of HAZMAT Tech's through real-interactive-updated training simulation.

For other companies out there that are looking for a great organization that has remembered the heroes of 9/11 and raised funds for nearly 12 years, step on up and we'll do all we can--whenever we can--to make sure we step up for you. Our organization depends on companies like HazSim to keep our doors open and we can't thank them enough! More about our Sponsor programs HERE




Monday, April 15, 2013

Why?!

I asked the rhetorical "why?!" question and got plenty of answers when I posted it in several spots on Facebook. I think we all know "why" but none-the-less, frustration sets in and it seems to be one of the first questions that comes to mind after another tragic act of terrorism in a metropolitan U.S. city.

Someone was even charged up enough to call me a "dumb ass," as if I was really that naive. 

Boston MA's marathon was as good as any for an opportunistic terrorist (whether domestic of foreign) and I'm sure there will be other targets. Sadly or better, "tragically," our semi-complacent and free lifestyle will be attacked again and again, and despite our law enforcements best efforts, they cannot plan for every contingency. 

Where's that leave us? Raise your hands American's your all about to be deputized. We are fighting an ongoing battle here and it's up to all of us to evolve neighborhood watch into America's Watch. Example: You see a foreign national or other suspicious looking person drop a backpack into a trash container or leave it near a building and take off....don't leave and call the cops....start evacuating and clear the area...it's not natural. If early evacuation can occur, with a portable explosive of this size, lives can be saved and injuries greatly reduced by clearing them from the blast radius.

We are our nations law enforcements eyes and ears. We are the "tipsters" for our nations first line of defense and we owe it to our fellow American's to step up and take action. We owe it to all 8 year old American's to provide them with a safe environment at all times. Is it the bystanders faults for not noticing what this terrorist did in Boston? No. You can't blame innocent bystanders for believing that security precautions are in place during events like this, but you can include them in your contingencies by telling all visitors or participants to keep their eyes open for things that look at of place. I believe acts like these in Boston cannot go on completely unnoticed. Someone saw something that didn't look right.

Again, bystanders are not to blame here nor are the plans of law enforcement for events like these. There are just not enough officers to see everything they need to see...so that leaves us to be their eyes and ears whenever possible.

Take a simple thing like driving an automobile in the U.S. as an example: I personally drive like someone ahead of me will run a red light, swerve into me or pull out of a side street into my path. It's defensive driving and I have had no accidents over the past 35 years because of it. Should we not do the same when we are in public places or at events where thousands are gathered? We can be in a defensive mode and still have a good safe time.

We can't stop terrorism completely in America...but I think if we all put ourselves in a more defensive mode when at large gatherings, we may be able to reduce the fatalities and injuries should that one place we happen to be, become a target for these heartless cowards.

Just my thoughts....my heart goes out to all those who were injured or killed in Boston today.