|LACoFD firefighter| Ride for 9-11|
LAFD Task Force Firefighter Berkery was shaking the hands of the FDNY firefighters he had worked alongside at Ground Zero in late September of 2001, when one grabbed his hand tightly--looked him straight in the eyes--and said, "PLEASE DON'T FORGET US."
I heard this story from my LAFD brother while visiting the local Starbucks. Those 4 words led me to take action and respond to the FDNY's firefighters request. I would make a special 9/11 tribute uniform patch and would try and get it on all firefighters uniforms across the U.S. This would be about honoring and remembering our lost 343 brothers--and it would be about taking on the world's largest effort to unite firefighters after the worst attack on the American Homeland in over 50 years.
I have lived the great loss of our brothers on 9/11/01 every day for over 11 years now. I can't forget as it has become my job to make sure others don't forget them. It has taken its toll on myself and my family but yes I realize...it is not about me!
And then firefighters from other countries began wearing the patch as if to say, it's our loss too. Even our deployed U.S. Military personnel began wearing the patch in solidarity with U.S. firefighters when the patch was introduced from a Navy SEAL Team 1 member while deployed in Afghanistan, in March of 2002.
Even with 10,000 organizations represented in as many as 30 countries, the patch and the idea, "WE WILL NEVER FORGET," is slowly dieing. It's as if fire departments in the U.S. and abroad are now saying, we will never forget for awhile...and then move on. It absolutely disgusts me to learn that some fire officials out there are actually making their members remove the patch--telling them it is time to move on.
Twice in 10 years, special mailers were sent to every fire department in the U.S. or approximately 40,000. There were not donations to pay the $15,000 for each mailing--it was my personal money and I had no business using it--especially after learning more that 75% of these mailers were not taken seriously and just thrown in the trash. WHAT? Yes, issues like this is not an approved nomex thread patch, or this is not an official request from a higher authority, or someone's probably just capitalizing on the opportunity to make money off the blood of dead firefighters.
As a former fire union president, I even mailed directly to other union presidents and got the poo-poo. What the hell? What happened to the so called brotherhood? Why did some departments come on board without question and others would not? Arrogance, ignorance, or even more prevalent in today's society of firefighters, skepticism! Are there other efforts out there to do the same? Should we choose from different vendors who may be offering a like-patch? Do we get three bids? Geeezzzeee! Even worse to be ignored by "brother" firefighters out there. What the HELL?
Here's the dope brother firefighters: There is no other national or international effort to get a 9/11
|FDNY Ladder 163 Firefighters wearing 9/11 patch|
Even one of the largest unions in the USA took forever to get back to me when I asked for their support. The same union (IAFF) that I served as a local president for. When they did, there were those typical conditions; get both FDNY unions on board and we'll consider it. Knowing that most likely they would not support anything merchandise related with a 9/11 theme, I still received the endorsement and support from the FDNY's Uniformed Fire Officers Association, unanimously! The other larger firefighter union, who by the way benefited from the sale of patches to the tune of nearly $20,000, said we can not change our earlier position. Still with the one union on board, the IAFF simply vanished and refused to return my emails.
Let's talk about money. Short of the first 6 months of this effort in 2002, the sale or patches and decals has not been a great fund raiser. When you have one or two patches sold at a time and need to order 100 minimums to get better pricing, all you do is chase the inventory. Sometimes it takes nearly a month to sell 100 patches. That is not what the project is all about--these aren't souvenirs! So the project recently returned to its roots and its all about the team coming on board or no one.
What? You can't approve the patch for the uniform? Then get it on your jacket--your job-shirt--your turnout coat....stand up and be counted or sit down and ignore something that is part of your history of firefighting. Opt out and let your new firefighters learn about 9/11 once a year when you are forced to dress up and have your little obligatory ceremony in front of City Hall. I'm sure your brother firefighters in the FDNY will appreciate your yearly support!
My closing thoughts (if you got this far): If you haven't figured it out by now, yes I am bitter. I am bitter towards my so called brother firefighters and especially, those who have totally ignored me for years. It is NOT about me and never will be. It is about our duty and call to remember. It is about wearing our hearts on our sleeves and sharing common threads. Finally, it is about one FDNY firefighters simple request that continues to be ignored by thousands of firefighters who would call themselves brothers! There is still much work to do...will you ever be on board? Stand up and be counted here: 9/11 Patches