New York Fire Chiefs on visit to Aotearoa New Zealand - like meeting old friends
New York City Battalion Fire Chiefs Kevin Harrison and Steve Spall say travelling around and visiting people in Aotearoa New Zealand was like ‘meeting old friends’.
Kevin and Steve (Times S ware, Engine 54 and Ladder) were in New Zealand to take part in the 9/11 Sky Tower Memorial Firefighter Stair Climb ceremony which was held last Monday. The climb honours every New Zealand firefighter lost in the line of duty since 1872, with the date of 9/11 chosen to coincide with the worst firefighter tragedy in recent history – the terrorist attacks in New York on 11 September 2001. The names of our fallen firefighters – numbering 68 this year – and the 343 firefighters from the New York Fire Department who died are read out.
During their stay, Kevin and Steve stopped by at fire stations, schools, and command centres and said every fire station they had been to here could be anywhere in New York City – all crewed by ‘good people’.
Kevin said the pair found out that we are all ‘really attached and have a lot in common’.
‘New Zealand is an amazing country with beautiful, warm, and inviting people. Everywhere we went, we thanked people for their support over the years for continuing to recognise 9/11 and keeping the legacy alive.’
Asked how they felt about being in Aotearoa New Zealand for the ceremony, both said it was tough to leave home, but they felt very humbled to be here to represent not only their department, but also America.
‘We wanted to hold up our end of the bargain and express our gratitude.’
Both were present on the day the attacks – which included two aeroplanes being flown into the Twin Towers World Trade Centre – killed 2,977 people.
Steve said they were both at home just out of the city but did not know each other then.
‘I tried to get there at record speed and arrived half an hour after the second tower fell. Amongst those who we lost were some people who were so promising and would have gone far.’
Both Kevin and Steve said, however, that it has been amazing to see the positive things that have come from the tragedy.
‘In every sense, we have seen the best of people. And we all grieve together; we are never alone.’
Kevin spoke to a Sky City staff member who was present when some pilots from Qantas arrived at the hotel after 9/11. ‘She said she felt she had to take care of them’.
L: Kevin Harrison and R: Steve Spall