September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story:September 11 for a Brazilian Firefighter.


I?m a firefighter and I love my job, I work in a small town in Brazil.
I get emotional and thrilled when we cross the roads, avenues, mountains and rivers to help, rescue, save and to protect the lives and property of people in distress. It is dangerous, sometimes sad, but I believe it is a privilege.

I have done this kind of work for 15 years and it makes me feel fulfilled as a professional and as a human being. Edward Crocker, former Chief of the New York Fire Department, wrote in 1936 : ? For us, there is no greater ambition in the world than to be a firefighter.? I believe and agree with this very thing.

I cannot remember who or how many persons I have helped, but I know each time I did it my heart beat happier and all effort was worthwhile when we could see a smile in the middle of pain and suffering, or fears of death being relieved because of our presence and prayerful support .

I always wished to know the USA and USA firefighters . We have them as a model , we follow the techniques, tactics and technology from our North American counterparts in the US.

In August 2001, I received an invitation from a friend who lives in Oregon , to visit USA. So I made the trip I always dreamt about. It was fantastic . Each city on the trip he showed me the fire departments and when I could hear a siren or see a fire car running it really thrilled me.

In the end of August we went to the Washington, DC area, which was very special to me. We met firefighters from the Virginia Fire Department, visited the White House , Washington Monument, National Air and Space Museum, the Pentagon, and more. From there we went to New York City. I marveled at the beauty of the Statue of Liberty, and the architectural magnificence of the World Trade Center, never imagining that this would be my last opportunity to see it intact

From NY we flew to London and then on to France. Our trip back to NY was planned for September 12 .
When we were in Bordeaux, France on September 11, we received the shocking news : America under attack; World Trade Center and Pentagon targeted by airplanes! We were in a tour group of about 40 people, mostly Americans, but also several from other countries, including myself. Everyone was visibly shaken. My tears, prayers, doubts and questions were many: Who and why ? How many casualties?

My friend wept and prayed at the same time. He had worked for the US Army in the Pentagon, in exactly the section that was burning after the plane crash. Places we had visited a couple of weeks before were now like scenes from a war .
We saw the pictures on TV. I saw the firefighters' efforts trying to reach the twin towers to rescue survivors , going to face possible death themselves-- the firefighter's duty .

I heard that almost 300 firefighters were missing. Thousands of persons perished. For me it was impossible to believe . It isn?t true! It is a bad dream! said the Americans that were with us.

We needed go back to the US; we wanted to go, but some persons were afraid. Some advised us to return directly to Oregon, and not spend several days visiting NYC, as we had planned; or for me to return directly to Brazil. But we wanted to go. We had no fears. I wished to meet the heroic firefighters that were working there , and if I could help as a volunteer I wanted to do so .

Our flight on American Airlines was not allowed to leave London , Heathrow Airport , until September 14, when US air space was reopened . The six-hour flight was sad and somber. When we left the plane the pilot and crew had tears in their eyes, instead of the usual smile, for good-bye . We were crying too. Not just tears from our eyes, but the heart was crying bitter tears . The memory of the black cloud of smoke over the city was printed indelibly in our minds.

Three days after the tragedy there still were smoldering fires at Ground Zero, and the firefighters were working day and night trying to find survivors . We visited the place on Sunday, September 16. We talked with firefighters and showed our support, love, gratitude and admiration. They were proving the universal truth that "With God all things are possible." In Brazil we firefighters have a motto: "Para o Bombeiro o imposs?vel quem determina ? Deus." Roughly translated, it means that the only impossible things for a firefighter are the things that are impossible to God. And because we know that all things are possible to God, we never give up hope, even though others may say that a difficult rescue is not possible.

Once, while working in my city in Brazil, I lost a co-worker, who perished when he was trying to rescue a 60-year-old man who had fallen into a dry well filled with gas fumes. It was the saddest day in our Fire department. Now, in NYC, I was with the firefighters that I always saw in movies, magazines and TV . The heroic NY firefighters . They were sad, having lost 300 colleagues but they were working night and day . The pain I felt in my heart was thick like the black smoke that covered the city . I wished to help. I wished to support them. I wished to do something--to volunteer to join them. (They were not accepting any more volunteers.) The people of New York and the entire USA, and a great part of the world felt the same . And the solidarity and support shown by everyone brought tears to my eyes--another lesson I will never forget.

That day changed my life. I learned to know a country , to know my fellow firefighters , to know the American people in one of the worst moments of their history.

I believe it is true that "Those who smile together become friends, but those who cry together become brothers and sisters."
I cried with Americans, with my friend, with people on the streets, with the firefighters that I admire. Now we are a family and I?m proud about it.

Wilson Soares Melo
Corpo de Bombeiros Militar
Montes Claros, Minas Gerais, Brazil



I am the friend mentioned by Wilson Melo in his article above.
When I invited him to join me for a vacation in Washington, DC, New York City, and several countries in Europe, I never imagined that this would turn out to be one of the most emotional experiences of my life, but also an experience where a seeming tragedy becomes a blessing in an unusual way.

On September 11, we were traveling in our tour bus heading for Bordeaux, France. At noon, when we stopped for a lunch break, our driver reported that he had just received a call on his cell phone, from his wife in Belgium, telling him that "America is under attack: New York and Washington, DC!" No further explanation at that time.
Having worked in the Pentagon during the Cold War with the former USSR, my first reaction was to imagine that our worst nightmares of that era had become a reality somehow. I had visions of nuclear bombs and things like that. It was difficult to clear my thought enough to pray, knowing the truth that God is in control, and that his spiritual creation is always intact.

We were not able to get any new information until we arrived at our hotel that evening, and could see the news on CNN. It was not a pretty picture! I was relieved, in a sense, to know that it was not a nuclear attack, but the impact was still devastating, and there was immediate need for prayer. I could not help shedding tears, but when I felt God's love surrounding all of us, including those directly affected by the attacks, I knew that in His kingdom, all was well, and harmony reigned, though it might not be apparent to mortal thought at the time.

When I witnessed the true love and compassion expressed by the French people at the hotel, something changed inside me. For years I had always felt that the French people, in general, did not like Americans. Now I realized that this was a false sense, because I could feel their love.

When I felt the hugs and tearful sentiments from members of our tour group from Australia and the Philippines, I sensed, once more, the brotherhood of man.

When I saw the British flags at half-mast, upon our return to London, I knew full-well that most of the world was united with America in our hour of need.

When I saw the selfless, brave acts of the firefighters in New York City, and the sincere desire of my friend from Brazil to be of help, to show his support and care, I felt deep pride for the privilege of being a "brother" to such true heroes.

My life was changed! Ever since September 11, 2001, I have felt more certain than ever before, that all mankind are united in one grand brotherhood, with God, Love, as our Heavenly Father.


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