Fire Chief Tim Butler

Fire Chief Tim Butler
Thanks for checking out my web log! My radio call sign in Saint Paul is "Car 1." Join me as we go "On Scene" to the fire stations, training evolutions, emergency incidents, and community events in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Let's share perspectives on the issues facing our Department, our community, and the American Fire Service!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Governor Mark Dayton has proclaimed today "Patriot Day" and a day to remember and honor the victims of the 9-11-2001 attacks. President Obama has asked all Americans to observe a moment of silence at 7:46 AM Central Time - the time that American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north tower of the WTC.
The Saint Paul Fire Department will be flying flags at half-mast today, and will be observing that moment of silence this morning in remembrance of the attacks, the victims, and the 343 FDNY Firefighters killed in the rescue operation.

Why do we remember these men and women? To many of us, it's not just an historic event in our country's history. It is real…it is personal….it happened to our brothers and sisters. If you care to read why I remember, and have tried to honor all fallen Firefighters in this Department and this nation, please feel free to continue reading below; they are the comments I made at a 2009 memorial service to mark the anniversary of the attacks and the 343 New York Firefighters killed in the rescue operation.  If you don't care to read on, then please take a moment today to remember the victims and the heroes of the 9-11-2001 attacks.

Most Respectfully,

Have you ever noticed that some events of our lives slip by almost unnoticed while other events seem imprinted on our memories like photographs? Sometimes we can’t remember what we did last weekend, but we can vividly recall a first date, or the birth of our first child.
The sight of the burning WTC towers will stick with me forever….

…….2 towers
…….2 pillars of smoke
…….huge fireballs of orange flame
…....a deep blue sky.

The images were stark.....Graphic.....Shocking. They grabbed you in the guts and made words stick in your throat. As the years go by, those photos in our national memory seem to be fading – forgotten by some and rarely if ever seen by younger Americans. So it’s good and proper for us to be here as Firefighters and Citizens tonight to refresh our collective memories about September 11, 2001.

Why remember 9-11? It’s understandable that children and teenagers may not know about the events of that day – they were too young to know what was going on. But many elected officials, citizen and corporate leaders, and – shamefully some firefighters - seem to have forgotten the events of September 11th and the impact those attacks had on our country. Sometimes they rationalize their forgetfulness: After all, it was 8 years ago......Time marches on.... And there are other priorities facing our country and our world now. Sometimes we just move on with life’s priorities and allow the memories to fade away.

But tonight let me share with you a few reasons that I think it’s unforgivable to forget, and a couple of practical, specific ways all of us can remember what 9-11 was really all about.

The attack on the Pentagon, the foiled attack on the White House, and the destruction of the World Trade Center was a bold plan, boldly executed. It was planned and carried out by people who had repeatedly vowed to kill our children, end our way of life, and destroy our Judeo-Christian heritage. They have long memories, and a long history of attacking US targets and Americans overseas. The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were over 10 years in the making.

The plan to use our own airliners against us was....ingenious, really. The aircraft - loaded with tens of thousands of gallons of highly flammable fuel – were essentially crude guided missiles – and they were aimed at the centers of our economic might, the heart of our federal government, and the leadership of our military. I was so shocked at seeing the two pillars of smoke over Manhattan that it wasn’t until I saw the Pentagon burning that I knew it was an intentional attack on our country; until that point, I thought it must be some tragic failure of the air traffic control system.

We must remember the attack event itself, because the people who attacked us are still at war with us. We may have lost our anger and forgotten – but the enemies of our country have not forgotten their hatred of us. When we stop remembering the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, we’ll become complacent towards future attacks – whether they come from domestic criminals inside our country, or from outside radicals and terrorists.

It wouldn’t hurt to put the 9-11 images back on television once in awhile – not to stir up hate or anger, but to inspire the passion and resolve to continue to prepare ourselves to defend our nation and our way of life. Remembering – so we don’t become complacent - that’s one excellent reason for annual ceremonies like this.

Secondly, out of a sense of human dignity, we should remember the individuals – the men and women - killed that day. Each had family, friends, workgroups, and networks. Each was part of the rich, diverse social structures of this country: churches, schools, workplaces, sports teams – none were spared the loss of the 2,973 lives lost on 9-11. Every one of those lives was “precious, unique, and of irreplaceable value.” Each brought something to our world – our nation – that can never be replaced. Take an hour or two this weekend and go to some of the memorial websites set up to honor those individuals and their rich, diverse lives. Check out or Look into the faces of the wives, the children, the coworkers and friends of those that were murdered that day 8 years ago. You’ll remember a little better what the attacks really meant to some, and it’ll be a little harder to forget them in the weeks and months ahead.

Please especially remember the families of the police officers, emergency medical responders, and firefighters who were killed on 9-11. Those families know best the deep regret of saying goodbye to a loved one in the morning, and never seeing or holding that loved one again.....EVER. Always remember that families ALSO serve!

The World Trade Center towers stretched up over 1300 feet in the air – 110 stories into the New York City skyline. Each floor was about one acre in size. You could see for 45 miles from the top of those towers! They were the centerpiece of the New York City skyline, and they epitomized the character of New Yorkers and Americans everywhere: bold…proud…enterprising…courageous. They were built by hard-working men and women who had as much steel in their hearts and muscles as they put into the towers. The World Trade Center was a reflection of our national character.

No wonder they made such prominent targets in the eyes of the terrorists. When the towers were hit, it was not so much an attack on the buildings, but an attack on that national character of ours. When those towers fell, and when the Pentagon was on fire, ALL Americans were victims. Yet – like the mythical phoenix bird rising from the ashes of a fire - a new spirit of national unity and resolve arose from the debris piles of the World Trade Center. All of us were united in our grief, and unified in our response – and we responded by demonstrating the values most dear to us as a nation.

I say it’s vitally important to remember 9-11 so we’ll be reminded of those days of unity following the attacks when we all saw and shared in the fighting spirit of our country – the very best traits in our national character.

And perhaps that’s the best reason for remembering 9-11 responders as well: they personified the values we most want to see in civilized society: faith, courage, strength, compassion, unity, vision, and sacrifice.

Yes……Let me say a few words about sacrifice. The word Sacrifice itself comes from two Latin words meaning “to make holy.” By its very nature, a sacrifice is something to be revered and honored - just like we would hold sacred a holy artifact or relic. On September 11, 2001, we all were humbled as 343 New York Firefighters stepped forward to sacrifice themselves for other citizens, for our national character, for the sacred values of the American Fire Service. It was the largest loss of life from any public safety response agency in history.

The willingness to step forward and serve has been a hallmark of the American Fire Service since the inception of our country. Firefighters constantly live with the fact that the ultimate sacrifice of their lives might be the price they pay for their willingness to serve. Brooklyn Park Fire Chief Ken Prillaman challenged us to think about this: what job is so dangerous that you’re asked to swear in front of your family, friends, and God that you’ll willingly lay down your life for others if you need to – before you’re even allowed to join the organization? I can think of only three that require such an oath “up front:” the clergy; the US military; and the public safety profession made up of peace officers, emergency medical responders, and firefighters.

And the sacrifices continue for many of the rescuers at the World Trade Center. Not all the victims died on September 11, 2001. We are still losing firefighters from that attack. Many have contracted life-threatening respiratory infections from the dust and debris of the World Trade Center and Pentagon rubble piles. Many have developed cancers from the hazardous materials inherent in our daily work and present in large quantities at the World Trade Center and Pentagon sites. Some have succumbed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and suicide. So, if people ask you why we should remember the horrors of 9-11, tell them that for many responders, those horrors aren’t over yet – they’re still happening!

It’s important, I think, to note that the 343 heroes from the New York City Fire Department who gave their lives up on September 11, died very honorable deaths. Their sacrifices reflect the very highest values and traditions of our nation’s fire service.

One of the most sobering tasks I perform as Fire Chief is to write letters of condolences to other Fire Chiefs when their department has suffered a line of duty death. I write a letter for every Line of Duty Deaths.

So far this year, I’ve written 70 letters…..

In far too many cases the cause of death is due to heart attack, stroke, vehicle accidents, and failure to wear seatbelts. For you firefighters out there, remember the honorable deaths of 9-11 and don’t needlessly waste your life and threaten the lives of fellow firefighters or citizens on patently unsafe actions or poorly thought out strategies. Practice the three rules of good risk management on the fireground: risk a lot to save a lot; risk a little to save a little; don’t risk anything on property or lives already lost. Wear your seat belts. Practice good air management procedures. Conduct a thorough 360 walk-around of fire buildings and do a good size up. Wear your PPE.

Take time to learn from others who have gone before you – from their experiences – and yes, sometimes their mistakes. Fire Chief Rick Lasky, Lewisville, TX, admonishes all of us to remember EVERY brother and sister firefighter who has died in the line of duty by incorporating the lessons they taught us while they were still here.

Read the lessons learned publications....the NIOSH Line of Duty Death investigations....check out and sign up for Chief Billy Goldfedder’s “Secret List.”

Finally, it’s important to remember 9-11 because it brought all of our brothers and sisters in the Fire Service closer together. We drew together as a family. Some call it “the brotherhood.” If we don’t protect our firefighter family – the feeling of belonging to a special group of people – a special family - it’ll be lost forever.

A couple of months ago, I was lounging at a campsite during a family vacation on the East Coast. A dark blue pickup truck slowed down as it passed our site. The driver was slouched down in his seat, with his arm out the window hugging the door. He looked at my International Association of Firefighters and International Association of Fire Chiefs stickers on the truck and the Minnesota license plates, and gave out a long, low whistle: “WWWHHHHHHHEEEEEEEWWWWW!” “Brother,” he said, “you’re a long ways from home!” That was my introduction to LT Mike Regan, Fairfax County, VA Fire Department, and a team leader of on of the initial rescue teams to enter the Pentagon on 9-11. What struck me most about Mike was his easy manner, and his free and liberal use of the term “Brother” - just because I was a fellow firefighter. There was a bond there – a bond made special by his efforts to include me in the brotherhood. 9-11 did that to our service – Chief Lasky said it differently: “The hugs feel better than ever.” If you want to hear more about our Brother Mike Regan, Google his name on the internet. You’ll meet a tough, talented firefighter, hear his first hand accounts of the response to 9-11, and meet a darn nice guy – a darn good brother. Let’s remember 9-11 and keep that brotherhood – that sisterhood - alive.

When you go home tonight, you’ll undoubtedly see news reports of the memorial service of Officer Richard Crittenden – gunned down in the line of duty in North Saint Paul on Labor Day morning. His son, Rick, is a Saint Paul Firefighter on Ladder 18 in Frogtown. Watch those news stories and think of the sacrifice, think of the families, of your own response actions, and of our brotherhood – our family – in the fire service.

Take an hour this weekend and sign up for the Secret List, peruse the websites for

9-11 families and victims, do a Google search for 343 and WTC, or check out the FireEngineering or Firehouse websites for safety tips on keeping yourselves and your brother and sisters safe. Take a look at Chief Lasky’s book, “Pride and Ownership: a Firefighter’s Love of the Job.”

Never Forgetting means Never Forgetting. Make the effort to learn something you never knew before about the September 11, 2001 attacks and the heroes who died. Take the time to learn something from any of our brothers or sisters who has died in the line of duty in the last five years and incorporate the lesson into your on duty procedures. Honor the memory and the legacy of those that paid the ultimate sacrifice and by doing so taught us a better way of doing things. Pass on what you know to others.

Yes, there are some very good reasons to remember September 11, 2001. If we fail to remember the details of that horrific event, then the values of the American Fire Service and the highest principles of this great nation may also pass away forever….. unnoticed.

It has been an honor to be here tonight. To my brother and sister firefighters: I revere your service and honor your sacrifices. It is a distinct privilege to serve along side of you in the protection and defense of this nation!

Most Respectfully

No comments:

Post a Comment