Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

    September 11, 2001
    World Trade Center
    New York, New York

Los Angeles Firefighter
Official Publication of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112, IAFF, AFL-CIO-CLC

VOL. 39, NO. 6
November/December 2001

The LAFD Response to New York City
The Blood sacrifice of so many of our brothers stirred up emotions that
could only be felt and fully understood b fellow firefighters

by Pat McOsker

    Years from now, each of us will remember where we were and what we were doing at the moment we first learned of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.  The intensity of emotion as we watched an unspeakable horror unfold on live network television has forever seared that moment into our hearts and minds.  Many of the feelings experienced by firefighter during and after the attacks on September 11th are shared by all Americans.  Grief, outrage, pride, and patriotism are but a few of those that come to mind.  But for firefighters, the cut was even deeper.  The blood sacrifice of so many of our brothers stirred up emotions that could only be felt and fully understood by fellow firefighters.

"the brother hood of firefighters was at it's best"
    In the days after the tragedy, a burning desire to help was the impulse of every LAFD firefighter,, and of firefighters from all over the country.  Each one of us wanted to be right there at ground zero, working shoulder to shoulder with our New York brothers.  As FDNY members later observed, "the brotherhood of firefighters was at it's best."  Ultimately, three lucky groups from the LAFD traveled to New York and helped in the effort.  We can all be proud of what they accomplished, and they are deserving of our recognition.

LAFD Urban Search and Rescue Team
    The first group of LAFD firefighters to arrive in New York was our Urban Search and Rescue Team.  Our USAR Team was at the top of FEMA's dispatch list, and they went to New York as part of the federal response.  By all accounts, they performed admirably under dangerous conditions, and did all that was asked of them and more.  Their return to Los Angeles after 10 days at ground zero was marked by a well deserved hero's welcome at LAX, followed by an appearance on the Tonight Show by a representative group of 3 team members.

    Our Critical Incident Stress Management Team began arriving in New York two days after the USAR Team.  Technically this group had not been dispatched to New York.  That is to say that neither the FDNY nor FEMA had actually made a request for help when the team was initially sent to ground zero.  Nevertheless, LAFD management anticipated a need, wanted to help, and "self-dispatched" our CISM people to New York.  Sure enough, the need for firefighter stress management at the site of the WTC collapse was enormous.  Our team was quickly absorbed into the FEMA effort.  Once again our people came through and were able to help our FDNY brothers.  The warm reception the CISM team received upon their return was fitting.

LAFD "Freelancers"
    The third group of LAFD members who helped in New York has been called "the freelancers".  They were the 30 to 40 firefighters who flew to New York on their own, with the simple goal of finding any way to help.  These "givers" represent the best of what firefighters are all about.  Our freelancers arranged time off at their expense, paid for their own transportation, lodging, and meals, and literally spent their "vacations" in New York City lending a hand.  But before they left Los Angeles, they faced some obstacles that the others had not.

LAFD Management discouraged members from going to NYC
    At some point management had become aware of their intentions.  An "all chiefs" meeting was called, and at that meeting battalion chiefs were instructed to visit each fire station and to discourage firefighters from traveling to New York to help in the effort.  As those visits were taking place, a teletype notice went out to the field.  The notice characterized travel from the Los Angeles area as something akin to the abandonment of one's post, and strongly advised against the "self-dispatch" to New York by LAFD firefighters.  Finally, on September 19th a letter from the Fire Chief was sent to all work locations. The letter lectured firefighters concerning their responsibility to protect the City of Los Angeles, and warned, "faltering in this mandate will not be tolerated".  Many firefighters took all of this as an implied threat of discipline for anyone ignoring these warnings.

No Stopping LAFD Members
    But these givers were determined to help.  Several of them called UFLAC Board members for advice.  They were told that the department had no right to impose travel restrictions or otherwise control the legal activities of off-duty firefighters.  That settled, they finalized their plans.  Less than one week after the attack on the WTC, these LAFD ambassadors, dressed in fresh UFLAC tee shirts, headed for New York City on some of the first commercial flights allowed out of Los Angeles.

. . . perfect example of the brotherhood of firefighters
    What happened next surprised even me. Our boys simply showed up at FDNY firehouses with words of condolence, and an offer to help in an way needed.  They professed a willingness to cook, to clean, whatever.  Their attitude was instantly seen by New York firefighters (whose reliance on union principals is legendary) as a perfect example of the brotherhood of firefighters.  Before long many were "riding out" on fire trucks in order to free up FDNY firefighters to attend funerals and comfort loved ones.  But the story doesn't end there.  As these FDNY fire companies "rotated in" to rescue and recovery duty at ground zero, they brought along the "brothers from Los Angeles".  As a result, the freelancers unexpectedly became the first LAFD members to see effective action at ground zero.

. . . the first to earn the trust of the firefighters in charge
    But an explanation is needed here.  You will remember that the first two groups of LAFD firefighters preceded the freelances by a few days.  So how did the freelancers get in on the action first?  Our USAR team and CISM team were part of the FEMA effort.  Through no fault of their own, both teams had spent the first few days working well out on the perimeter of the site.   An incident of this magnitude is an overwhelming organizational challenge.  This was FDNY's incident.  Their 14,000 firefighters and ample resources were enough to do the job alone if necessary.  Remember that it was their fallen brothers in the rubble.  As much as possible they intended to "bring out their own".  So in those early days only the FDNY and the outside firefighters they brought in had real access to the site.  Furthermore, the acceptance of outsiders by New York's bravest was somewhat dependent on their being readily identifiable as professional IAFF firefighters.  Therefore, a firefighter tee shirt with the IAFF Maltese cross was the uniform of choice.  Our freelancers wore the UFLAC tee-shirt, they had flown all the way across the country at their own expense, they came hoping only for a chance to help brothers in need., and had demonstrated their abilities while working shoulder to shoulder with the FDNY.  Naturally they were the first to earn the trust of the firefighters in charge.

The department had become aware of the sensibilities of FDNY and had asked UFLAC for "tee shirts for everybody"
    In little time the selfless work of the freelances opened doors for the rest of the LAFD contingent.  The appreciation of FDNY firefighters was expressed as, "Hey, you guys from L.A. are alright."  That was transferred to the rest of  our group, and soon everyone had the access needed to do the work that they had come to do.  It probably also helped that by now all of our people, chiefs included, were wearing either a LAFD or UFLAC tee shirt.  The department had become aware of the sensibilities of the FDNY and had asked UFLAC for "tee shirts for everybody".  We were happy to oblige.  A shipment was sent overnight to New York City, and well over 100 shirts were distributed to LAFD members.

LAFD Pride
    The collapse of the twin towers on September 11th was one of the worst tragedies in American history.  Certainly it will go down as the worst day in the long history of the fire service.  While mere words can never adequately express the immense sadness we firefighters feel for the loss of so many of our brothers, we can take solace in knowing that so many LAFD "givers" were there to help in that time and place of  terrible need.  Each of them deserves a full measure of our gratitude.  We can be proud of the contributions of all of our co-workers, both those who were sent by the powers that be, and those who simply followed their hearts.

The Mail   Bag

May/June 2002                                                      Page 11 

Jim Perry, Editor

Dear Jim:
   I'm not sure if the old FDNY administration or current administration have officially thanked the Los Angeles City Fire Department for their rapid response.  If not, I would like to try a hand at writing a special thanks to your members from our frontline.
    There was actually an LAFD member who worked on the evening of the 11th and 12th.  He had been attending a seminar at the NFA, and responded in from Emmitsburgh.  I believe there were two members from Chicago as well.  I will have to review my notes as to names.
    There were dozens of LAFD members who actually staffed our firehouses and machines, especially in lower Manhattan, where we lost so many members.  It was odd to see FDNY rigs manned by yellow helmeted firefighters.  But they offered welcomed relief, and will forever be in our thoughts and prayers.

Mark, a firefighter from
FDNY Squad 55



July/August 2002                     Page 7

LAFD Wife Visits FDNY

Dear Jim:
  I am the proud wife of a Captain with the Los Angeles City Fire Department and I ALWAYS read the Los Angeles Firefighter publication, however, the May/June 2002-Vol. 40. N0. 3 Issue was especially poignant.

    I was reading "The Mail Bat" with a letter addressed to you, Jim Perry, Editor, from Mark, a firefighter from FDNY Engine 55 thanking the LA City Fire Dept. for their rapid response and help during the September 11th attack.

    What makes this so impressive and important to me is that I went to NYC on Oct. 11th, the one month anniversary, and was able to get within two blocks of Ground Zero.

    Upon my arrival in NYC, my sister and I were fortunate enough to park her car near a fire station which just so happened to be FDNY Engine 55 !!
   I brought with me from L.A. two of the red bracelets in memoriam of our fallen heroes on Sept. 11th in the FDNY, and two of the firefighters were very gracious in accepting them.  They invited my sister and I in for coffee, but we were not able to stay.  They were very gracious in allowing me to have my picture taken with them, as this was so important for me to represent my husband and the LA City Fire Dept.

    I was wondering if you still had the letter from Mark at FDNY Engine 55 and if I may have their address.  I would like to sent them some of the pictures we took.

    I thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail.  My visit to NYC and to visit with two of the firefighters at FDNY Engine 55 is etched in my memory.  I feel very proud and lucky to have met them


Kristy Laur
Wife of Randy Laur, Captain,
LA City Fire Station 104

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