DSC01585 Captain Weldon in the Ladder 20 Office with
the Certificate from Ironhorse Brigade and a patch from Fire Rescue
at Q-West in front of the drawing of the flag planting at Iwo Jima,
a gift from the artist, Felix De Weldon, to Ladder 20.
As I arrived at Ladder 20 in the
rain I saw 2 soldiers decked out in dress uniform, a quilt of ribbons
down their chests, one in blue and one in green. After chatting
with some of the L20 firefighters in my usual nervous babble, I
grabbed Captain Weldon to pose in front of the drawing of the Marines
planting the flag at Iwo Jima- a gift from the original artist,
Felix De Weldon
(no relation), who created the famous sculpture..
Patch from Fire Rescue at Q-West, Iraq ...to present the 7 patches
from Renee at Fire Rescue of the Fire Department at at Q- West,
Al Qayyarah, Iraq in honor of the seven men from L20 lost on 9/11
Certificate of Appreciation from Ironhorse Brigade
the Certificate of Appreciation from Nora's Ironhorse Brigade Combat
Team thanking L20 for their support.
Sgts Mike Levasseur and Pete Sanders present flags flown over Fire
Base Farah in Afghanistan on September 11, 2006 in memory of FDNY
firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino to Lieutenant
O'Connor of E-24 and Captain Pat McNally of Ladder 5.
The soldiers had already left for
Ladder 5 Engine 24. I chased after them. Lucky for me heading west
on Prince Street was all down hill.At the 5 & 24 I found the
soldiers and asked them if they would present 2 more Q- West Fire
Rescue patches from Renee in Iraq along with the 2 flags that the
soldiers had brought from Afghanistan to honor Robert Beddia and
Joseph Graffagnino who died on August 18, 2007, at the Deutsche
Bank, a building still broken by the fall of the World Trade Center
towers on 9/11.
Moment of silence for the second tower at 5 & 24
The flags the soldiers presented
were flown "in the face of the enemy" over Fire Base Farah
in Afghanistan on September 11, 2006. As Sergeants Michael C. Levasseur
and Pete Sanders began their presentation the fire bell rang.
The firefighters of 5 & 24 walked through the downpour to their
positions on the rig and headed out to work as the fire truck's
siren wailed behind the soldiers.
year at Mass Christina Brunn spoke to Battalion 2. Her brother Andrew
Brunn, a member of Ladder 5 -previously a NYPD Sergeant and
before that a Staff Sergeant for the Air National Guard, already
having served in Iraq- was one of the 10 men of Ladder 5 killed
at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Her speech was amazing. She said:
"Show up for Life no matter what; Evil hates that."
I asked her after the service to send me the text of the rest of
her speech- it was a no drama kind of thing, it really hit the spot.
If I get it I will share. Cristina told me she has also been sending
support to the troops since 2002, when I get that info I will share
it as well.
Show up for Life no matter what; Evil hates that. Yeah. Ten words
that sum up everything about why it's OK to laugh and talk and be
happy to see friends and family on 9/11.
There is a question here about carrying on the stories for history
versus respecting the privacy of the people who are living with
it. Then when we are all too old for it to matter and we want the
most personal stories to be known, the future does not care. When
was the last time someone listened to the older folks about what
they saw in WWII or Viet Nam or even the first Gulf War? And so
it is. I am careful which stories I tell. One
of the troops I have stayed in touch with since 2004 wrote this
week, "When are you going to write a book about the stories,
the emails, the times, and the trials of those you have come to
meet and befriend? " Ah well, maybe around the same time as
he tells me the story behind the Bronze Star he was awarded.
Some of the stories can be told now. I tried to put them all up
on Ladder20.com (which I have noticed no one reads!!!!) But I have
let the web site fall behind in favor of keeping the gifts going
to the troops for the holidays. The stories multiply geometrically;
the connections often require a map and a scorecard to keep up.
Like the story of how Sergeant Michael C. Levasseur ended up in
the rain at E24L5 on 9/11/07 with U.S. flags from Afghanistan.
The short form goes like this:
In January 2002 I met the firefighters of Ladder 20 when I stopped
in to buy a t- shirt. They looked surprised as they rummaged around
looking for a t-shirt for me. They said to me they figured no one
cared so much any more about the FDNY firefighters after 9/11, no
one was coming in for t-shirts. I told them to reorder t- shirts.
I would sell the shirts and show them that people still cared.
In October 2003 I had been selling t-shirts for Ladder20 when a
fire destroyed my home. No one was hurt but the L20 t-shirts took
a soot bath. I washed the shirts and started looking for a unit
in Iraq or Afghanistan that might want the 180 or so shirts I could
no longer sell, because they had been washed.
It's not easy to find a way to send gifts of support to the troops.
We can not send gifts "To Any Soldier" like the old days,
except through a third party and back in 2003 there weren't any
organizations ready to do the job. There was no one who could take
the shirts. Protesting was reeeeeeeeeallly easy. If you wanted to
protest there were loads of organizations ready to hand you a sign
with a catchy slogan, or you could attend free concerts and breakfasts
and celebrities would pat you on the head just for being there.
Protests were big social events. It was harder NOT to protest than
to protest. (By the way, seen any protests lately?)
But if you wanted to show support, you had to be crafty and able
to overcome obstacles.
Through an email list of a group of motorcycle riders who visit
the 3 sites of the attacks for the benefit of first responders I
found a Connecticut National Guard unit shipping out.
How many shirts should I send to them and what sizes do they wear?
They had a huge group shipping out, more than the t- shirts I had.
I didn't want anyone to feel left out, what was the right number
to send? Well, the number 343 became obvious, the number of firefighters
we lost on 9/11 (now plus 2 for Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffignino).
So I called up my contact at L20 and asked him to order enough shirts
for me to make the total I was sending total 343. When I got to
L20 to pick up the remaining shirts, I found that the firefighters
of Ladder 20 had also collected their own shirts in big bags to
send to the troops.
Stuff like that just fills my heart so full it's hard to breathe.
so I send out the shirts and then I feel kinda bad because the CT
unit goes to Fort Drum, NY, instead of straight to Iraq and I am
worried that maybe the troops who need the support the most are
not going to get the shirts and the point that we are thinking of
them "over there".
I told the troops getting the shirts that if they ever doubted the
support they had back home, to look at these shirts and remember
that the firefighters of the FDNY support them, every minute of
9-11 2006, Ladder 20's Moment of Silence for the Second Tower
2007, a lot had changed. FDNY firehouses no longer sell t-shirts,
so I send popcorn with help from the FDNY firefighters and patches
that I can still get from firefighters and generous patch vendors,
I also can't go to firehouses to collect the used t-shirts due to
new FDNY regulations. There's lots more people getting organized
and getting stuff from firefighters to send to troops, not just
t-shirts but fire hoods and masks and believe me, if the troops
can use it the FDNY firefighters are sending it already. The motorcycle
email list where I found most of my original contacts is closed
but I have established good contacts in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
I can't imagine what Mike Levasseur thought of me approaching him
on 9/11/07 at L5E24. Here was this sweaty blond woman, half rained
on, getting up in his face with some patches from Iraq asking him
to present them to the firehouse. I can be a bit pushy and Mike
graciously let me push him around. Although I am generally shaking
at my knees around the FDNY guys and the troops, when it comes to
delivering messages from the troops to the firefighters I summon
up my nerve and stick my nose in like a real New Yorker (I'm originally
a Philly chick).
So when I asked Michael C. Levasseur how he came to be at Ladder
20 last week, he wrote:
the connection. The Connecticut Medical Battalion you sent the shirts
to, that was my unit.
I have been deployed overseas to Bosnia in 2001 (thats where I was
on 9/11), Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and Afghanistan from January 2006
to April 2007.
It helps me get through the things I have to do overseas knowing
the sacrifice the FDNY made on 9/11, and it helps the FDNY guys
get through their rough spots knowing that their sacrifice is at
the front of the minds of every Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine
every time we go out.
The FDNY firefighters would say the opposite. They think we make
all the sacrifices.
Sergeant Pete Sanders (in the green uniform) is in the same unit
I am, C Company 1st Battalion 102nd Infantry. Pete has served off
and on over the past 20 years. He had gotten out well before 9/11
and actually worked in the Fresh Kills Landfill during the recovery
operation. He decided to get back in after he realized that the
war wasn’t going to end anytime soon. Afghanistan was his first
time overseas in combat..."
Sgt. Mike's guidon flag "...While I was in Iraq, 2003-2005,
I had made a tan "guidon" flag (the one with the skull
and cross bones on it). When I got back to the US in 2005, I stopped
at the World Trade Center site in September to take photos of the
guidon flag and my Ladder 20 shirt that I had brought home with
me. At the WTC a Port Authority Officer gave me the American Flag
and the Port Authority flag that were flying over the World Trade
Center that day..."
At the 5 & 24, Lieutenant Gary Iorio of Ladder 20 with a Italian
Firefighter Captain Paride Maccarinelli of Lumezzane, Italy. Paride
has attended at least the last 5 9/11 events.
"... Then I brought the guidon
flag to Ladder 20 and met Lieutenant Iorio. ..."
Lieutenant Iorio and Captain Macarinelli's message to the troops.
Sgts Mike Levasseur and Pete Sanders with Captain Pat McNally of
Ladder 5 and Joseph Graffagnino's wife Linda.
"... I met many of the other FDNY
companies around Battalion 2, including the men of Engine 24 Ladder
5. I met Joe Graffagnino..."
Joseph's wife Linda Graffagnino and his parents accept the flag
from Sgts. Mike and Pete
The Beddia Family is requesting that in lieu of flowers donations
be made to FF. Joseph Graffagnino Children's Fund.
Donations can be sent to:
FDNY Foundation/FF. Joseph Graffagnino Children's Fund
c/o FDNY Foundation
9 Metrotech Center
Brooklyn NY 11201
For more information please call 718-999-0779
As above, where Michael said,
"in 2005, I stopped at the World Trade Center site
in September to take photos of the guidon flag and my Ladder 20
shirt that I had brought home with me. "
9-11 2006- Sergeant Mike with his men in Afghanistan holding up
the Port Authority flag given to him at Ground Zero in September
"...I was in Afghanistan from January
2006 to April 2007. When I found out the guys who died on August
18, 2007 were in Battalion 2 I felt the need to make recognition
of their sacrifice on behalf of the Army. I had 2 American flags
that had been flown over my fire base in Afghanistan on September
11, 2006 -about an hour before the photo with the Port Authority
DSC01625 copy 9-11 2006- Afghanistan, close up of Mike standing
beside the Ladder 20 t-shirt sent in 2003
One for each, Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino.
"... I felt the need to make recognition
of the sacrifice of these two men from Ladder 5 on behalf of the
Army, so I brought those two flags back to New York and the firehouse
New York City, Ladder 20,with Captain Weldon, Lt. Colonel Kevin
was happy to see the flagfrom his unit, the 118th Medical Battalion,
we didn't know the story behind it until 2007.
9-11 2007, under the guidon flag is the photo of Sergeant Mike's
men holding the Port Authority flag and the Ladder 20 t shirt from
9-11 2006- last thing the firefighters see before they leave the
"...Today the guidon flag is still
in the kitchen of Ladder 20, immediately to the right as you go
out the door. And now there is also a smaller photo of me and my
men in Afghanistan on September 11, 2006 with the Port Authority
flag as well. That's the level of unity between the FDNY firefighters
and the Army. I literally showed up on their doorstep one day out
of the blue and they took me in like one of their own even though
I was a total stranger."
guess those shirts from my fire made it to the right soldiers
;). And it’s not just troops from nearby states who are welcome
here and not just on September 11- when Nora
came from Iraq duty Texas in June, she got the royal treatment
as well. If you want to hear it from the Navy and the Marines
from May: May 30, 2007 -- On behalf of
the 600 Marines and 3,000 sailors who have been in New York for
Fleet Week, thank you ("Welcome to the Fleet," Editorial,
New York Post, May 26).
The outpouring of hospitality, generosity and well-wishes has
The Marines and sailors have unanimously reported that New Yorkers
treated them to more food and drinks than they could consume and
felt welcomed and appreciated in the Big Apple.
When calculating their travel time in the city, the Marines and
sailors found themselves accounting for all the people who would
stop them to shake their hands, pat them on the back and say,
This reception particularly means a lot to the Marines, who have
just returned from Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.
Now we are on our way home, where we will continue our training
for the missions that lie ahead.
This has been a great break for us all.
As we say, "Bravo Zulu" - New Yorkers are "good
to go." No city rolls out the red carpet like New York.
Col. Peter Petronzio
24th Marine Expeditionary Unit
Capt. Michael Hawley
Captain, USS Wasp
You're no stranger here, this is YOUR city.
you take these stories and multiply it by like 100 every day for
6 years and you will have some idea how many stories I know now,
how full my heart is, how lucky I am to know you at all, how the
connection between good people in the military, the FDNY firefighters,
all first responders and the civilians they protect and how the
real people in this town support the troops and the firefighters.
Celebrities are everywhere with the FDNY firefighters on September
11 in New York, sitting quietly behind the heroes. They were there
with us at E24L5 and at Mass. Today their names are less important
and that's the way it is.
And it just keeps going.
So, what's changed in 6 years? Basically, we know how to act on
9/11, we know who we are, we know what's important, we look around
and can see who our friends are and make time to show them we love
and we care about them and our families. More good people have died
fighting for us to live- that's never going to be acceptable. We
made the connection and we continue to make the connection.
At this time of year I hear from some folks I met through supporting
the FDNY firefighters and the troops who got busy with life, fell
out of touch and got back in touch. I am so happy to hear from you
I feel a little guilty being happy until I remember what Cristina
Brunn (another blond from New York City) said at Mass: