By Clare Ogilivie
Local firefighters are planning to turn their annual Other Firemans Ball into a fund-raiser for the families of New York firefighters who lost their lives in last weeks terrorist attack.
"We want to change the focus and have this be a benefit ball for the families of the missing New York firefighters," Doug Harwood, captain of the fire department, said of the Sept. 29 ball at the GLC.
"We all feel like a brotherhood of firefighters and this event has really struck us down."
Thats a sentiment echoed by Whistlers fire chief Bruce Hall.
"Its like losing part of your family," he said. "Words cant express how we feel to be quite honest.
"The pain that New York is feeling is the same pain we are feeling."
It is estimated that scores of firefighters are missing in New York.
Local firefighters are wearing black ribbons on the left shirt pocket of their uniform, crests on vehicles have been blacked out, and flags are flying at half mast.
Local RCMP officers are also mourning fallen comrades.
"We are wearing our police memorial ribbon," said Sgt. Norm McPhail.
Whistler officers observed three minutes of silence during the "Day of Mourning" last Friday and members have been talking amongst themselves about the tragedy.
"Everybody is talking about it and you can see the effect reflected in the memorials," said McPhail "Theres neer a dry eye."
Local RCMP are sending a photograph and letter of support to their brothers in New York.
As president of the fire chiefs in B.C. and a board member of the national fire chiefs association Hall is part of discussions to set up a Canadian on-line fund-raising effort.
The "911 Fund" is already going strong in America said Hall and the hope is that the Canadian effort can be tagged on to it.
There are also plans to have a local memorial service to coincide with national and international services to honour emergency workers who lost their lives. Its likely the service wont be held for some time as firefighters in New York are still concentrating on sifting through 1.2 million tons of rubble and Pompeii-like ash at the scene of the devastating terrorist attack, which covers 16 acres and has left a hole 70 feet deep.
Hall said every firefighter knows the risk of the job. Every firefighter knows what its like to feel their way through a smoke filled hallway, lead terrified victims to safety, then take a deep breath and go back in to a world of heat and heartache.
"(The fire fighters in New York) were doing the job they were trained for," said Hall.
"When the bell goes or the pager goes you just never know what it is. You have no idea what you are heading in to. In this case fire fighters were doing what they were trained to do.
"They were running in to rescue people while everyone else was running out."