This is an interview conducted with Lt. Dan McMaster (Alexandria, VA Fire/ IAFF Local 2141) back before Andy Fredericks Training Days. It ran in our Local 947 newsletter and at our website ( pffg.org ). We had several guys from our Department attend and was an awesome event. Obviously, it is a little dated but it's well worth posting here. Hope everyone enjoys...
Lt. Andy Fredericks was a 20 year veteran of the FDNY when he responded to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. Like 342 of his brothers, Andy made the ultimate sacrifice that day.
In an effort to carry on his legacy of training, and recognize his contributions to the fire service, Andy’s home Local, Alexandria (VA) Fire Fighters Local 2141, have organized the Andy Fredericks Training Days. The Feederline had the opportunity to speak to Lieutenant Daniel McMaster, assigned to Truck 8, and a member of Local 2141, about his relationship with Andy and the experience of helping to organize the Training Days.
Danny, tell us a little about your career.
I have twenty years in the job, beginning in Alexandria in 1989. After ten years in Alexandria, I was appointed to the first class of 1999 in the Fire Department of New York. After working in Engine 43 and Ladder 35 for a couple of years, my wife and I returned to Alexandria to resolve some significant issues with each of our families back in D.C. I have been a member of Alexandria Fire since my return.
What was your relationship with Andy and how did he impact your fire service career?
Andy actually worked for my father (a retired Captain) in Engine 1 when he completed probationary firefighter training in Alexandria. I didn’t know Andy well then, but got to know him from Joel Kanasky (FDNY Rescue 1) who was a childhood friend of his. Joel was also a former Alexandria fireman, and was appointed to the FDNY a few years after Andy was. I followed a few years later, and ended up settling in Suffern, NY, where we were all neighbors. After he left Engine 48, Andy moved to Squad 18 in Manhattan. When I was assigned to TL 35 in Manhattan, Andy and I were in the same groups, and got to see each other at jobs fairly often.
Andy’s impact on my career has been significant. As a younger member, it is always a blessing to end up in a strong house with good role models as you come up. Andy and Joel both provided that example for me through their hard work and dedication to the job. The remarkable thing about Andy was that 9 out of 10 times he walked into a room, he was the smartest guy in it—whether it was full of firemen, or lawyers, or computer programmers. Despite that fact, he was the most humble, down-to-Earth guy you could run across. I can’t tell you how many brothers I have met from small jobs around the country who said they emailed him with a simple engine company question, only to have him call them on the phone to discuss their problem more completely. Andy loved this job and everyone in it.
What I take from him (in addition to good fundamental knowledge) is to do everything you can to help your brothers at every turn—no matter how big or how busy you become. Now that events like FDIC are more mainstream, and more and more guys are writing articles and delivering programs, I often wonder if they all truly get what its supposed to be all about. For Andy, it was never about him, his resume, or his ego, but always about his brothers.
How did the Training Days come about?
As you can imagine, the period between 9/11 and today has been an inexplicable challenge for everyone involved. At the time of Andy’s death, the brothers in Alexandria collected a nice amount to benefit the families of those who were lost. A significant piece of that money was given to Joel and I to create a fund specifically for Andy’s family. At the time, we were too overwhelmed to think things through completely, so the money sat in a college fund for Andrew and Hayley for a few years. The fund was always something that both of us were aware of, but didn’t discuss or plan for very often.
We had toyed with the idea of fundraising for a long time, but this part of the country has had a rather large case of “9//11 saturation syndrome.” Not only were we skeptical about the potential success of another golf tournament, 10K, or T-Shirt sale, but quite honestly, we were personally more than willing to not dredge all that old stuff back up again. Late last year Joel and I finally agreed that it was time to not only put some cash in the fund for Andrew (a junior in high school), but it was time to create something in Andy’s honor that would capture his value to us and the job as a whole. What more natural choice to fill those goals than a training event for his brothers from all over the country?
What are plans for the Training Days in the future?
Right now I’m focused on making sure every guy that shows up in May gets enough to eat, can see the screen, and doesn’t miss his flight home. Seriously though, we are in full “experimentation mode.” At first, we were worried that nobody would sign up, but now that the numbers are rolling in, we have shifted to making sure that every single brother that steps up to help us out gets the best possible training experience, and is treated like a king while he is in town. Andy went out of his way to take care of his brothers, so his event will do the same.
Conservatively, I hope that Training Days grows every year in Alexandria, and becomes an annual opportunity to get guys together to train and remember our friend. In Fantasyland, I can see a time where Training Days becomes a “traveling show” where we reach out to guys around the country who knew and loved Andy’s work, and show the new kids coming in what Andy was all about.
Why do you feel it important to host the Training Days in Andy's name?
It may be hard to understand what I’m going to say, but there are times when we worry that people are forgetting about our brothers who were lost in 2001. Its not that anyone will ever forget the number 343, but will they remember anyone’s name or face? How many kids have entered this job since 9/11 who know what happened that day, but have no idea who any of those guys were or what they were all about? I could tell you how much I miss guys like Jimmy Giberson or Mike Roberts or the Captain, but who outside of New York would know who I was talking about? Andy was the face of the FDNY for a lot of guys around the country, and our goal is to make sure nobody ever forgets him.
We will certainly use this opportunity to raise money to give Andy’s children the things that their father wanted for them, but we will also ensure that guys in this job remember Andy’s work, and what he represented to brothers everywhere. We will get together and tell stories, have a lot of laughs, and continue to learn this job— just like Andy loved to do. In the process, we will bring our friend to people who may have never had the pleasure of knowing him, but will leave there understanding who he was and what he believed in.
What has the response been like?
In a word… overwhelming. When the young guy here who set up the website and the registration page gave me the access password, I checked it every hour for the first two days. When nobody signed up right away, I made up my mind that nobody was coming. However, in the weeks that followed I was blown away by the response from all corners of the country. To be honest, when I saw the size of the group you guys were bringing from Greensboro, I called Joel and asked: “…did Andy ever spend any time in North Carolina?” You guys have stepped up big for us, and we will never forget you for it.
I have been in touch with every group from outside of the DC/NY area, and each one has mentioned the impact that Andy has had on them and their jobs. I can only imagine what it will be like to look out at that crowd on May 18th, think of Andy, and then try to get a few words out. You guys have made this whole thing worth it for us, and none of you have even set foot in our town yet. 2009 has been a tough economic year, and yet brothers from all over are coming out of their own pockets to make this trip to help us out. You couldn’t dream up a greater tribute than that.
For more information see the Andy Fredericks Training Days website:
May 18-22, 2009