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With the 14th anniversary of 9/11 here I felt the need to tell my 9/11 story.

I signed up for the local volunteer fire department in June 2001. In July of 2001 I had to participate in the department’s physical agility test. The part that I hold close is that I was the last member of that department to have this fond memory. While climbing to the top of the 100 foot aerial stick I heard the operator’s voice speak on the speakers mounted at the top of the stick. After I assured him I was ok, he said, “what do you see?” I said “I see the twin towers.” You see if you were at the right height you could see the lower Manhattan skyline from the back of my fire house in Woodbridge Township, NJ. I remember being scared climbing all the way to the top of the stick being as I’ve never gone that high before, but I remember feeling special that I was able to see that view, that view made the climb all worth it.  As we know how history played out, two months later those beautiful towers were lost during the hardest day our great historic fire service has had and a day our country will never forget. I was just an 18 year old kid on that day, I didn’t quite understand what was happening or how it was going to change things forever.

I remember attending my first firefighter’s funeral it was for Firefighter Francis Esposito. FF Esposito was one of the brave 343 FDNY firefighters who died on 9/11. I remember there being a huge turnout, I didn’t know what was going on, it was crazy. There were news agencies, fire departments from all over, bag pipers, there was a guy who was putting us into formation and explaining how and when to salute. It was serious business and I was proud to be a part of it. I remember having to climb our ladder for the second time now after my truck was assigned to hang an American flag from it and connect it to another truck so the flag could hang over Firefighter Esposito’s hearse as it passed on his way to the cemetery. I was assigned like this “hey probie, go up there and hook that flag to the top of the stick so it is hanging straight from our truck to their’s.” Unlike every other probie who gets assigned to doing something they aren’t too fond of, I took the task as an honor. While I was hanging the flag there was a picture taken, I never knew it and only seen it once since, but I remember my older brother seeing the photo in a magazine and saying “that looks like David.” He showed it to my mother to verify and she assured him it was me. I have no idea what magazine it was in, and haven’t seen the photo since, but the fact was on that day I the “probie” was part of something bigger than me, something monumental and historic and at just 18 I was looked at like a man by my older siblings and my parents. This was a strange feeling for me. I was known as “little McGlynn” and no one took me seriously, being the youngest of four and not being a legacy firefighter in town it was hard to find my purpose.

As I type this my thoughts are all over the place, I feel that being as I didn’t directly lose a family member or a member of my crew that I worked with that I shouldn’t be writing about this. However here’s my thing about 9/11, 9/11 taught me how to be a man. As an adult now and as a leader; I grow more and more each day. However, being an 18 year old kid and growing up seeing the twin towers when I traveled north on the NJ Turnpike, knowing that city was my backyard, realizing that I was part of something important, this “brotherhood” thing that we all talk about. Having people walk up to me when I was just an 18 year old kid and shaking my hand and saying thanks just because they saw I was wearing my fire department t shirt. These are a lot of things that can weigh heavily on a kid. They are things that without the right attitude and mentors can be taken out of control. I am saddened everyday about what took place to our country as well as our fire service. We have a HUGE scar that we will bear forever. Yet I am thankful for what it did for me. It taught me how to be a man early, it made me realize I was part of something bigger than me and greater than I ever imagined. It made me be thankful for what God has done for me and what he continues to do for me. I take that day seriously because it was the start of me becoming a man. Every year that goes by, I am thankful more and more and I learn more and more about myself, my career, my family and my life and I am glad that I was one of the few able to have a small part in it. We all have our 9/11 story, some are sad, some are better than others, but mine is simple; 9/11 made me realize I was about to embark on an amazing journey and that it was a privilege to be part of it. May God bless the victims and their families, like Chief Lasky always says, never forgetting means never forgetting…never forget. 9/11/01; the day that changed us all.

 

Dave McGlynn

Passion in Leading, LLC

facebook.com/passioninleading

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