Fire Crew on 9/11 Trip Reaches New York
The News Tribune
Four Gig Harbor firefighters plan to pick up a piece of steel from the destroyed World Trade Center today in New York, marking the turn-around point of their cross-country excursion.
The crew had to adjust its route because of storms in the Midwest, but other than that, the trip went relatively smoothly, according to updates posted on Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One’s Facebook page. They arrived Tuesday night, according to a post on the page.
Along the way, the four men — Lt. Kent Cooper, Rob McCoy, Josh Bissenas and Ryan Watson — have met plenty of people who want to hear about their mission and share their stories.
They’ve been stopped at gas stations and inside restaurants.
“The closer we go, the deeper we get into the gravity of the situation,” they wrote this week. “We are driving across the country that was affected by this tragedy, sharing with strangers their emotional tie to 9/11 and to this mission, as if we were bringing it to their home town. And in a way we have.”
The fire district recently was awarded a 986-pound, 5-foot-long piece of steel from the World Trade Center. The district plans to incorporate the artifact into a memorial garden honoring those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The garden will be built at one of the district’s facilities.
The four firefighters left Gig Harbor on Sunday. They initially planned to return next Sunday. However, they’ve been invited to take part in the commissioning of a new, 65-foot New York City fireboat that was built in Bremerton. The event will delay the firefighters’ return until Monday afternoon.
The firefighters are working on plans for a celebration when they return.
The firefighters are driving a fire district truck and pulling a trailer adorned with two American flags and the words “911 WTC Never Forget.” They’re taking personal time and using donations and their own money to pay for the trip.
They are driving around the clock and stopping only for gas, food and to stretch.
“Beginning to realize that this trip is even more than we anticipated, and I know that I have really felt an overwhelming sense of pride and responsibility having been entrusted by you to bring a part of our history to the NW,” McCoy wrote on Facebook on Sunday.
The crew made an unscheduled stop just miles into their 6,000-mile journey to tweak the trailer’s brakes. They’ve reported no other equipment issues.
They ran into road closures on early Monday from floods and mud slides.
“Backtracked to Billings and now up to I-94 to North Dakota,” they wrote Monday on Facebook. “Not exactly what we planned for.”
They had to adjust again later in the day because of tornados. They drove through North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana.
Along for the ride is Mike, the favorite stuffed animal of McCoy’s son. The crew has been snapping photos of Mike along the way and created a photo album on Facebook to share his adventure.
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