I didn't do anything special on September 11, and here's why...

Remembering the firefighters, police officers, and medics who were killed on 9/11/01 is important; in fact it's so important that I have included it into the culture of my average workday. I have visual memory triggers to help me remember, including 9/11 memorial decals on both my personal and work vehicles. I wear a bracelet memorializing Captain Terry Hatton of FDNY Rescue 1. Helmet stickers, check.

There are two even more important things I do on a routine basis. The first is that I have determined that I will do everything within my power to honor those who sacrificed their lives on 9/11 by making every day a 9/11 memorial. That means doing everything I can to have a positive impact on firefighting, EMS, and terrorism response both as an individual and as a team member. I'm a training officer, and I take "Everyone Goes Home" seriously. I started purchasing the "Everyone Goes Home" black wristbands and helmet stickers for every recruit firefighter we hire. We have a two-page list of expectations for every new firefighter that ends with the "Everyone Goes Home" message. That list encompasses the history and traditions of the American fire service, and the need for every new member to uphold those traditions. We spend time on the first morning of orientation teaching the recruits what it means to be a firefighter, the fact that we're a family, and they are expected to be safe, productive members of that family. We let them know that firefighting isn't for everyone. We remind them that our average day is generally the worst day in the life of the customers. We let them know that they have chosen to bear a heavy responsibility, but that there's a team to help them carry that responsibility.

The second way I remember daily is that I participate in a state-sponsored terrorism response team. Being a COBRA team member takes a lot of time, effort, and training. It takes a lot of thought, planning, policy writing, and drill and excercise planning and implementation. I don't mind, because every one of those things adds capability to my organization, my town, my county, my state, and my country. It's a matter of time until we start getting hit with terrorist attacks again, and I want to ensure that I do my part.
I'm not only a firefighter, paramedic, and officer every day, I'm a COBRA team member every day.

After 6/18/07, I added personal memorialization to the Charleston 9 to my daily reflections. That incident was very personal to me, especially since I knew two of the nine. The C9 decals are on my vehicles to help other people remember, and they're on my helmet to help me remember. They didn't die due to a terrorist act, but their loss is felt just as deeply here in the Low Country.

My department has adopted the unofficial motto "Tradition Starts Today" That message is included in the expectations for new firefighters list. We don't have the long organizational history that a lot of other fire departments have. Our Town is only 25 years old, and the department younger still. We recruit nationally, so we have a lot of firefighters who start with no understanding of Low Country culture, cuisine, or the really important things like the local firefighting traditions. We remind them that we have some traditions that are shared with the entire U.S. fire service, that each individual firefighter needs to uphold those traditions, and that part of that traditition is being a good neighbor. We stress that you can be a good neighbor by participateing in mutual aid and respecting the firefighters and fire departments that are our neighbors. We also remind them that they are personally responsible for helping to continue to develop fire service traditions for our department and our profession. That includes developing positive traditions to replace some of the negative ones - getting alcohol out of fire stations, using smart fireground strategies including staying out of Born Losers, and avoiding doing stupid things like diverting fire department funds for personal use and letting our egos override professionalism.

So, how does this relate to the topic? It means that for me, EVERY day is a 9/11 memorial day. Every day is Firefighter's Day. Every day is Patriot's Day. Every day I try to make a difference both personnally and professionally.

Tradition Starts Today...EVERY day.


You cannot have my brother, Red Devil,
Not today, not today
Not your smoke or flames, Red Devil,
Not today, not today
Not your falling buildings, nor blazing heat,
Not my brother struck down in the street,
Not my brother nor my sister
You CANNOT have them, Red Devil
Not today,
Not today



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Comment by Jes on October 12, 2008 at 4:38pm
9/11 Tribute Video URL:

Comment by Jes on October 12, 2008 at 4:37pm
Let no man's ghost return to say his training let him down
The very worst fire plan is no plan. The next worse is two plans
Never fight fire from ego

Here is a 9/11 Tribute video I created. Copy and paste into your browser if you'd like to see it.
Comment by Ben Waller on September 15, 2008 at 12:17am
Thank to everyone who replied for the kind words. I deal with objective training stuff all day every day, so sometimes it's difficult to express subjective feelings in ways that others understand.

The every day memorial goes on - we have another recruit starting today - the next one joins the thin red line.
Comment by Cathy Shipley on September 14, 2008 at 10:26am
Loved your post..very moving, and also very true..I wish the entire country would think like that on a daily basis..Thank you, and God Bless.
Comment by Joe Stoltz on September 13, 2008 at 3:03pm
Great post, Ben. I agree completely, we should remember every day of the year and live our lives accordingly.
Comment by Mike Schlags (Captain Busy) Retd on September 13, 2008 at 2:04pm
Another awesome post Ben. Your words are very moving. I am very proud to be able to call you my friend. Thank you...
Comment by Kimberly A Bownas on September 13, 2008 at 10:32am
Nicely done Ben. I think that is a great way to remember all that were lost in both events and a great way to get new recruits to be safe a come home safe. Nice job....
Comment by Mick Mayers on September 13, 2008 at 10:09am
Nicely done. Hopefully these guys will embrace our motto (and hopefully, the people we already have will too). What we need to do in our little part of the world is insure that everyone we bring on board gets "it". Maybe that will spread outside of our sphere of direct influence, which would be better still.

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