Fire fighter clifford 9/11
I remember being this teenage kid with a chip on his shoulder. I was full of aggression and frustration and desperately trying to find a direction in my life. Through out my teens I was constantly in trouble at school and with the law. I was a rebel without a cause, surrounded and influenced by gangsters, bodybuilders, boxers and doormen. It all had a positive and negative effect on me, for one I could handle myself and I wouldn’t take any shit. However being around these people got me into some tricky situations.. but I’ll leave that to your imagination.
When I turned 17 I moved out of my parents house. It was tough on my own paying bills, I was completely broke. I worked part time at a gym then I somehow managed to get a job at a bank. To this day I don’t know how I got that job.. I had zero qualifications and dyslexia but I shone in my interview. This was my first step to a normal life, but it didn’t last. After six months I was fed up of the routine I needed a bigger challenge, something that would test me physically and mentally.
Cut to two months later. The date September 11th 2001. I just finished working out at the gym. I sat in the reception drinking my protein shake, I was feeling down and lost, I still had this inner voice constantly telling me that I’m meant for something more. Then suddenly a news flash interrupts the TV program. It showed smoke pouring out of one of the world trade center towers. They weren’t sure what had happened at first. Then they reported that it was a high jacked plane that hit the building. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, I froze glued to the screen. Then the second tower got hit. It was surreal seeing that plane fly into the tower, as soon as it did it hit my heart just as hard.
Then I saw the most moving thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Hundreds of firefighters descending on the scene like angels from Heaven. They swiftly arrived and without a second thought selflessly went into save the innocent people inside. They were absolute fucking heroes. I watched and wished I could be there to help. Over the next hour I witnessed the incredible professionalism from all of New York’s emergency services, they did everything they could to keep people safe, it was truly admirable.
The scenes from the tower were getting extremely difficult to watch. I saw these poor people jumping from the building to escape the intense heat. Then I heard a firefighter had a heart attack whilst climbing the stairs. All of a sudden the first tower collapses. Moments later the second tower follows and the city is covered in dust. I sat there in disbelief with tears in my eyes. Then the news anchor asks for any off duty, retired or volunteer firefighters to come to help. All of a sudden Firetrucks from across the city answered the call.
That day changed my life, I realised my calling was to help people. The following day I applied for Cheshire Fire Service, Derbyshire and Greater Manchester. After a couple of months I got a letter from Greater Manchester Fire Service. I had to do a physical test and an interview before they would consider training me. I past both with flying colours. three months later I started at the training center, it was tough and the instructors really gave it to you everyday. The hardest thing was the written tests, I feared they wouldn’t let me in if I had told them of my dyslexia. When I was at school I was told I was stupid by my teachers and I believed it. They laughed when I read out loud and mocked my spelling, then they announced mid class that I was going to a special needs class. Everyone laughed at me and it really knocked my confidence. I had to find a way to past the test. I came up with an idea, I researched every bit of of equipment that we were using. I used prompts to get my brain activated. Then I sat down every night and asked myself every question I could think of. Then the day for our exams came. I struggled reading some of the questions but I got over it by using a technique I thought of which was to do everything ten times. I read every question ten times and eventually it made sense. I waited anxiously in the canteen to hear my results. They called me in and asked how I thought I did. I said OK I think. They said you did very well 93%. I was speechless, I’m a tough guy but I tell you that day I walked straight in the toilet and locked the door while I cried. I was overwhelmed.
From that moment on I was Firefighter Clifford 260051. It was one of the proudest days of my life. I served for three years and saw some things I rather not discuss. The camaraderie between us was special, we all had each other’s backs no matter what. I looked up to my leading firefighter/trauma technician, he really took me under his wing. That period in my life changed me, it taught me discipline and team work. I’ll never forget those days. I’ll look back at the kid who could have easily ended up in prison but instead followed his heart.
One thing I’ll say about all firefighters is we all do it for the same reason, to help people.
In loving memory of the innocent men and women who lost their lives in New York and Washington on September 11th 2001.