IAAF OUTDOOR CHAMPS
FROM START TO FINISH
TEACHING THE CLEAN AND SNATCH
IN SEASON WEIGHT TRAINING
CELEBRATING THE FALLEN
2011 World Police And Fire Games
By Glenn Thompson
I have been a police officer for the city of Scottsdale, Arizona, for 17 years. I was also a collegiate thrower at Central Arizona College and Texas Tech University. I have competed in the World Police and Fire Games, and Masters Track for the last 11 years.
When I learned that New York city would be hosting the 2011 World Police and Fire Games to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, there was nothing that was going to stop me from signing up and going there to compete. Little did I know that Hurricane Irene would literally close the city and all the airports to prevent hundreds of athletes from getting there the first weekend of the Games. I refused to let a little hurricane keep me from going to honor the fallen officers and firefighters that lost their lives that dreadful day back in 2001. When we found out that our flight to Newark was cancelled due to the hurricane, I was ready to pile the kids in the minivan and drive around the clock to get there from Arizona. Luckily my wife got us a one way flight to Pittsburgh and we did not have to take that extreme measure.
After landing in Pittsburgh, our intention was drive as far east as we could since New York City was closed. On this unexpected detour to New York, we had our first 9/11 experience when we passed the area of Shanksville, PA, as it was 10 years ago that those brave passengers prevented flight 93 from crashing into the White House. By this time, the outer part of the hurricane was over us, and it was late at night so we stopped in Harrisburg Pa. for the next two nights to wait for the hurricane to pass so we could get to NY City. While at the hotel, there were dozens of other firefighters and police officers that were staying there from all over the country waiting for New York to open up so they could also compete and honor the fallen.
The next day we were able to drive to New York. We turned our rental in at the airport and got all our bags onto the shuttle to take us into Manhattan. The only problem was that when we got into our hotel room, we were missing one bag, and you guessed it, the one with all my throwing gear was lost by the shuttle somewhere. Lesson #1: always carry your throwing shoes on, everything else can be borrowed or bought.
Up to this point, I was thoroughly frustrated that the Games were almost cancelled, our flight was cancelled, and all my throwing gear and implements were gone. What could go wrong next? As I pouted over all of that, I thought, "Wouldnít any of those 417 firefighters and police officers that lost their lives that day have loved to be in my position being able to be with their families and compete in an athletic event on a sunny September day?" My whole perspective changed after that.
After competing in the discus and getting off of the subway to walk to our hotel, we passed Engine #23 Fire Station on 58th street. On the front of the station door, it read "Fallen, in memory of our fallen brothers". Below that, was a picture of a lionís head and it read "Lionís Den." I remembered the story of Engine 23. All six fire fighters on the truck were killed except the one that flew out on vacation three hours before the attacks.
We went to Ground Zero as they were preparing the final touches to the 9/11 Memorial before it opened it up on 9/11/11. Even though the area is a big construction zone right now, there was a very quiet somber feeling to it. I could feel the presence of all those people that lost their lives there that day. When we walked across the street to the World Financial Center, we walked to the 2nd floor to get a better look at the Memorial out of the large glass windows; there was a lady volunteer giving a narrative tour of Ground Zero. She was trying to hold back the tears because her husband was one of the 417 killed that day as she was giving a personal perspective of what it was like to have lost a loved one on that day. As you look at the area, it is amazing how those towers did not do more widespread damage than they did.
It took a lot of courage and unselfishness for those first responders to enter those towers to save others when they knew that they would probably not come out alive themselves. When everyone was running out of the towers, it was the brave first responders that were running in.
During our stay there, I heard many stories of bravery and courage. One story in particular was the story of Ladder #6 and 61-year- old Josephine Harris. They were tasked to help evacuate the second tower that later fell. They were in the stairway when they heard the first tower come down. They were about 27 floors up and were walking Josephine Harris down the stairs, she was very fatigued from already walking down from the 73rd floor. She told them all to go ahead without her so they could save their own lives because she was so slow, and they refused to go without her. They could hear the second tower start to come down above them, as they continued to get her down to the bottom. Right when the tower came down on top of them, they were all in a stairwell void on the 4th floor that protected them, and they all lived. A little faster or a little slower and they all would have been killed. They now call Josephine their Guardian Angel. When she died earlier this year, the ladder company had the honor to hoist her coffin at her funeral, much the same way they carried her down those stairs 10 years earlier.
The last night that we were there for the Games, we had the honor of attending the candlelight vigil for all of the first responders at St. John the Divine. When they opened up the ceremony with the bag pipes, I could not hold back the tears anymore. They honored all 417 police officers and firefighters by showing their pictures on the big screen. *L&S*