Those of you who were in NY after 9/11 certainly remember how Mayor Giuliani encourage New Yorkers to attend the funerals of fallen police and firemen. The following is the story of my experience at one of these funerals.
The friend I never knew
I recently had the moving experience of attending a memorial service for one of the fallen firemen from September 11th. Mayor Giuliani made a request for New Yorkers to go out and attend these services to insure that a proper number of people would be showing their respects to each individual victim. It wasn’t till after the service that I began to wonder whether his suggestion was meant to be for the victims and their families, or for the many common citizens who were able to show up.On this day I learned many things that I did not know about the New York City Fire Department. I heard the stories of how their performance on September 11th played and enormous part in saving tens of thousands of lives. I heard how they were running up the stairs trying to save people while the people were running down the stairs trying to escape. I saw the respect and love they all have for each other and the matter of fact way in which they approach their job. They love what they do and feel little to no fear for dangers that would certainly frighten most people.On this day I just missed being able to greet the Mayor but I did have the honor of shaking Fire Commissioner, Thomas Von Essen’s hand. I had a few conversations with a few people here and there, but most of all, I made a new friend. Fireman David Weiss.David Weiss was originally from Pennsylvania and always knew that he wanted to be a fireman. He became a member of the elite branch of the department, Rescue 1, a few years ago, following an extraordinary situation. When traveling on the FDR Drive in Manhattan one day while off duty, he spotted a car sinking in the East River. He pulled his car over and jumped into the river, pulling the man out of the car, and brought him safely to shore. News of David’s heroics reached he department’s brass and David was promoted to Rescue 1. It was a dream come true for him to be in the top unit of what he knew was the greatest fire department in the world and to be able to do on the highest level that which he loved most. One time while Rescue 1 was working on a very dangerous situation David approached a fireman who was new to the unit. He told the fireman that he must be finding this rough as one of the new guys and that he would have no trouble taking over one of his shifts in order to help him out. The fireman agreed and David ended up working a double shift. Later on the fireman found out that David too was one of the new guys. This was typical of his personality. Loved by his family, friends, and coworkers, a person of David’s quality is very hard to find. Even with all this, the friendship I feel for him is different from any other that I know. Since I never met David Weiss.On September 11th, David’s unit was one of the first to arrive at the scene of the attack. He and his fellow firemen helped evacuate the buildings and guide many people to safety. Sadly, David was one of the more than 300 firemen that died that day heroically doing their job. The memorial service I attended this past Sunday was for David Weiss. The words spoken by those closest to him paint a very vivid picture of a man who although sadly died at a much too early age, died in the exact way he would have wanted. Not only saving lives, but saving thousands of lives. The words of these people made me feel as if I had gotten to know this man, and at the end of the day I felt as if I had lost a friend. Maybe the Mayor knew this would happen for some when he encouraged people to turn out. This was a display of unity and respect and even beauty in the midst of greatest sorrow. On a day when I was one of many to pay last respects to a dear friend. A friend I never knew.
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