Straight out of Basic

Photograph of Firefigher Brian Sweeney's id badge on a wall next to red numbers 343

I was about 5 months removed from basic training and the fire academy in the Air Force. The fire service wall all new to me. On 9/11 I was on duty working at Station #2 and washing our engine outside. My crew chief came outside, told me to come in with probably the most stern voice I had heard since basic training. I honestly thought I did something wrong. When I went inside, I saw the TV. We all sat there watching with complete disbelief.

We were called and told to lock all doors and to remain inside until further notice. My brother, at the time, was Active Duty Air Force as well, stationed in Alaska. I immediately called him because I knew he needed to go to work.

Some time later, our Captain called for us to come to station 1. Station 2 was off of the main base which meant we had to go through the gates. They had barricades in place and searched our engine for bombs (this went on for months after). I remember our entire routine changing. Just to get to station one we had about 3 checkpoints to get through. The station was on the flight line so it is understandable. We attended a 9/11 memorial some months later with other local fire departments. It was the first time I ever put the black cloth across my badge. It is still on there today in my closet. I never felt it was appropriate to take it off. I continued my fire career after leaving the Air Force. During that time I had the opportunity to participate in the10 year 9/11 Memorial Stairclimb in Kansas City. This was exclusively for fire fighters and only 343 were allowed to climb. 343 is significant because it is the number of fire fighters who died that day. We were assigned a specific person to climb for. When I got his name, I learned as much about him as I could find. I learned he was supposed to be off that day but covered some ones shift. He was on Rescue 1. The only way they initially identified him was by a partial tattoo. The photo is of Brian and what I wore during our climb. We climbed 110 stories with all of our gear. On our way up, there were pictures of each person, reminding us of their sacrifice and to keep going.

This has driven me everyday since. I remember the sacrifices they made and hope to live up to those each and everyday.

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