Archive for category 9/11

Just Sayin’ Blog – A Thank You Doesn’t Suffice

Last Saturday, as I was returning home from an auto glass repair and replacement industry meeting, I had the honor of experiencing an event that I’ve never before had. I was sitting on a Southwest Airlines plane in Jacksonville, Florida when the pilot asked for everyone’s attention. After flying several million miles in my life I was expecting to hear him tell everyone onboard the old tired lines of “Welcome to Southwest” or “Today we’ll be flying over storms so be sure to keep your seat belts securely fastened” or “We’ve got a great cabin crew today…”; something that you hear each time you fly, but really don’t pay that much attention to. What I heard caused me to stop everything that I felt was important at that instant as did everyone else on the plane. Very sadly, but at the same time everyone on the plane had the extreme honor of carrying home a fallen sailor. The pilot never told us his name. The fallen sailor had his Navy escort taking him home to his family for his final rest.

Perhaps you have heard a pilot make an announcement such as that on a flight that you’ve been on, but never before had I heard that announcement. The pilot spoke solemnly and respectfully of the sailor that had fallen, his escort in uniform quietly sitting alone in the front row we all listened attentively to the pilot. I’ve never heard such quiet during a pilot’s announcement. Everyone stopped and listened; people loudly on cell phones stopped talking; not a sound was being made. After the pilot spoke everyone on board began to softly clap hands for the fallen soldier. The rest of the flight was one of the quietest flights I’ve ever experienced.

You read in newspapers or hear on your local news of fallen soldiers who lay down their lives for each of us and our country every day. Although I do not have any military experience, my father and oldest brother served and I always say a quick prayer. But in this experience it really brought into focus the idea of sacrifice and how little of the various things that we feel are important in our daily lives really are in comparison.

The pilot made another announcement before we landed asking everyone to remain seated after the plane landed and stopped at the gate; allowing him and the Navy escort to leave the plane in respect. No one moved or made a sound after we landed and arrived at the gate. Everyone quietly sat and watched the very young sailor in the first row stand, put on his uniform jacket and wait for the pilot to come out from the cockpit. When the captain opened the door and stood next to the Navy escort they saluted each other and slowly walked off the plane. Still no one moved until the flight attendant thanked everyone for their cooperation and everyone quietly exited the plane.

Whenever I walk through an airport I thank soldiers in their camouflage uniforms for their service. The response is always, “Thank you sir.” I keep thinking about the honor of being on a plane with someone who was prepared to give his life in service to our country and paid the ultimate sacrifice. A thank you doesn’t suffice.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Interview with FDNY Chief Richard “Pitch” Picciotto

Each of us knows exactly where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001 and we will remember that day of infamy for as long as we live. 343 fire firefighters and paramedics, along with over 2,400 civilians were killed by terrorists on the day that brought down the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. While the of terror wrought was so shocking on 9/11, the day also brought out the best of what America is, means and stands for. A few of the antonyms of infamy are esteem, honor and respect. On that day and the days that have followed showed the world the greatness of America.

Richard_Picciotto_Photo

One of the featured speakers at Auto Glass Week 2013 was Richard “Pitch” Picciotto. Pitch is a former New York City Police Officer, who for 28 years served with the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) as a fire marshal, an arson investigator, then as a lieutenant and as a captain before becoming a chief in 1992. When the North Tower of the World Trade Center was bombed by terrorists on February 26, 1993, Pitch was given responsibility for ensuring that the entire building was completely evacuated. He was on duty in New York the morning of 9/11 and he knew immediately that the attack was done by the hands of terrorists. His experience told him that the first tower hit on 9/11 was a terrorist attack and not a small plane hitting the building on a beautiful sunny day.

When Pitch arrived at the World Trade Center on 9/11 he was assigned responsibility for leading the evacuation of a number of floors of the North tower. The 110 story tower had 99 elevators which were rendered useless when the plane struck the building. Everyone who escaped from the North Tower that day came down one of three stairways, one each on opposite corners of the building and one in the middle of the building. On opposite sides of the building were stairways (Stairway A and C) which were 44” wide. The inside stairway (Stairway B) was 56” wide. You can imagine how difficult it was for fire fighters to go up those stairways to help evacuate the building when the stairways were already filled with panicked people trying to leave.

Although the North Tower was hit first, the South Tower was the first to collapse at 9:59 a.m. Inside the North Tower at the time of the collapse of the South Tower Pitch knew the tower he was in was going to also come down and he ordered the immediate evacuation of the building which meant every fire fighter dropped their equipment where they were standing when they heard the order and they started down the stairways.

Pitch was in between the 6th and 7th floor stairwell at 10:38 a.m. when the North Tower collapsed. He and 12 others in the stairway near him at the time of the collapse survived as the building fell in around them. Five hours later they were able to find their way out of the building and walked over the rubble of the Twin Towers to safety. Pitch tells the entire story of his experiences that day in a book he wrote titled “Last Man Down: A Firefighter’s Story of Survival and Escape from the World Trade Center”. Since 2004 Pitch has been a Battalion Commander responsible for Battalion 11 which covers the Upper West Side of New York.

I had the extreme honor to introduce Battalion Commander Richard “Pitch” Picciotto to the audience attending. Those listening to his talk that day heard him tell in vivid detail his experiences that day in the North Tower. He spoke of the heroism of the countless fire fighters who put their lives at risk to save the vast majority of those in the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Pitch also talked about five points that he feels are important for all to focus on in the post 9/11 world we live:

1.    Priorities in your life are what’s important

2.    Get focused on family and friends – don’t give up on relationships

3.    Be kinder and gentler

4.    How do you get through life? With the help of generous support of people

5.    Prayer

DR      First let me thank you for taking the time to talk Pitch.

RP      My pleasure.

DR      When you spoke at our recent conference I know that everyone was mesmerized by the story you told; one of leadership, perseverance and faith. What are the key traits that you feel are important to being a leader?

RP      First and foremost you have to be competent. You have to know what your job is and how to accomplish it. Unfortunately we have too many incompetent leaders. They may be nice people, but they are not competent in their field.

DR      In your experience do you believe that people are born with the traits required to be a leader or can someone learn to become a leader?

RP      I think it is a mixture of both. There are people born with traits to be a leader, but these traits also have to be developed. And you can develop many (probably not all) by studying and learning from other leaders.

DR      You first became a police officer for the City of New York and then made a career change to become a fire fighter in New York. What drew you to becoming a fire fighter?

RP      I just loved the camaraderie and also the tremendous amount of gratification of doing the job. There is no greater feeling in the world than knowing that you and your team saved a life.

DR      I understand that there is a term used by fire fighters – accountability – that has a different meaning to the one most are familiar. Can you explain the meaning of accountability as it relates to fire fighters?

RP      As a firefighter you’re accountable for your actions, as a leader you are not only accountable for your actions, but also for all actions taken by those who you have trained and lead.

DR      Like many in the room listening to your talk I was mesmerized by the story you told. The experience you recounted seemed more of serendipity. The takeaway I got from your talk was that all of us need to celebrate and embrace those around us in our lives. As harrowing the experience of 9/11 had to have been for you, you seemed to have emerged from the events of the day with an amazing outlook on life. How were you able to achieve that?

RP      I really don’t think I had a choice. It seems that if you dwell on the tragic events and repercussions of any tragedy it will consume you. I know myself and many of the firefighters did dwell and were consumed by the events of 911 to the point of depression, but for me I am now able to compartmentalize that part of my life (even though I reflect on the events of 911 every day) I try to enjoy life.

 DR     You ended your talk telling us five points that you feel are important for everyone to focus on. What was the genesis of those five points?

RP      You listed the points. I truly believe this is what helped me, and hope it can help others. I came to this realization after a long time reflecting on the events of 911 and life and what is necessary to be happy.

DR      Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions today Pitch. After you finished your talk you spent a great deal of time talking with those who attended one-on-one. I also saw you walking around the show floor and the hotel lobby. You were and are very approachable. I had a number of people tell me that you were someone that they’d enjoy having a beer with in their local bar. A man who would be comfortable anywhere, talking with anyone about anything. I have to concur with that as you and I talked several times and you were very kind and gracious to everyone you came in contact with. With what you went through on 9/11 you must have one huge heart.

Battalion Commander Richard “Pitch” Picciotto is an American hero. One of countless heroes, not seeking that badge that emerged from the events of 9/11. What makes people like Pitch so remarkable is that in his view he didn’t do anything more than his job on that day. Although he was only doing his job as Pitch says, he and other fire fighters saved the lives of over 27,000 people by getting them safely out of the Twin Towers on 9/11. I know that as a nation we remember the loss of lives that day, but in his eyes we should also celebrate life.

Just sayin’.

  

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