Monday, September 7, 2015

9/11 Memorial Medallions now available!

Just in, 9/11 Memorial die cast medallions are now available. These are double sided die cast medallions mirroring our memorial patches. Once again all proceeds benefit the Kennedy Space Center Fire Fighters Memorial fund. The memorial fund will be used to support and maintain the 9/11 memorial and other Fire Department related memorial/funeral services.

9/11 Memorial Medallions

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Passion, Pride and Honor, Our Journey To Remember September 11, 2001

Click on this photo to view each step of this adventure chronologically.
For those of you who follow my fishing adventures, you know my passion for angling and the outdoors runs deep. Well, this weeks story is not about fishing, it's about Passion, Honor and Respect.  Most of you only know me as a fishing guide; well there is more to the story, so please join me on the journey of my lifetime.  Besides guiding anglers to the catch of their lives, I have also proudly served as a professional fire fighter since October 1, 1974.

The story begins on the cool clear morning of September 11, 2001.  The cloudless skies of blue and bright morning sunshine i ronically set the stage for the darkest days in American history.  In the halls of the World Trade Center's twin towers thousands of workers went about their business tending to their daily jobs.  That was until a band of heartless terrorist flew hijacked aircraft into the towers murdering thousands of innocent people as well as 343 brave FDNY fire fighters.

As fire fighters and Americans we were deeply touched by the losses suffered in these cowardly attacks, so on the tenth anniversary of the September 11th  attacks the fire fighters at Kennedy Space Center Fire Department made the decision to build a September 11th Memorial at Fire Station 1.

Shortly thereafter we submitted a proposal to NASA for the development and construction of our memorial site, which was denied due to budget restraints.  Although this was a setback, we made the decision to move forward with the project by developing a funding it on our own. Slowly but surely we redeveloped an abandoned satellite television dish site on the north side of KSC Fire Station 1, and on September 11, 2012, our memorial site was dedicated by KSC Center Director and veteran astronaut Robert Cabana.  Although we had reached the goal of establishing a memorial site, we were still missing a key element, a World Trade Center Artifact.

With the memorial site dedication behind us, our efforts soon shifted to acquiring a WTC Artifact to complete the project.  The following year we made numerous attempts to reach out to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to no avail.  No return messages or emails. Our hopes of acquiring an artifact more than a decade after the attacks seemed hopeless.  Another year passed, and after our second September 11th Memorial Ceremony at Fire Station 1, Center Director Cabana and KSC Fire Chief Anderson agreed to write letters to the Port Authority on our behalf. 

Again, another six months passed with no response, and our endeavors seemed hopeless. Then on a Friday afternoon I received an email from Chief Anderson containing an image and description of  WTC Artifact G-0063, a seven foot long 16" X 16" I-beam weighing just under 2000 pounds. With wind in our sails once again we began reaching out to our friends at KSC for assistance, and our project moved forward.

Now that we had acquired an artifact it was time to develop a plan and budget to travel to New York and retrieve it.  In our original plan, myself, Lt. Jim Dumont, Lt. Tad Derr and Lt. Danny Seawright, would drive Jim's pick-up to NYC and bring the artifact home at our own expense.  In an effort to solicit some assistance with funding, we submitted our proposal to Kevin Smith, President of our Transport Workers Union of America Local 525, who immediately reached out to us.  Little to our surprise, Kevin not only picked up the ball and ran with it, he also scored the winning touchdown.  Soon the wheels were turning and our  endeavor was gaining momentum .  Each time Kevin called me there was a new element of support added;  First American Airlines stepped up offering to fly the artifact from  Philadelphia  Airport to Miami International, next, the TWU International offered to buy 500 medallions, other TWU Locals in New York, Philadelphia and Miami offered their full support, and the effort continued to grow immensely.  This venture was an honorable and respectful effort where thousands of caring and passionate Americans came together to assure this artifact was treated and honored in the highest regard on every step of its journey.  It was a truly humbling experience to see the tears of pride in the eyes of everyone who touched it along the way.

Monument Towers and Tops
In addition to the unbelievable response received by TWU International, other in-kind donations of assistance began rolling in:  David Harrison from Hensel Phelps Construction Company specifically designed, engineered and constructed the twin pedestals needed to support the I-beam.  David specifically designed the monument base as a scaled version of the twin towers not only in dimensions but also orientation. Renowned NASA artist Tim Gagnon designed two images to be used in the production mission patches and medallions for fund raising and commemorative  purposes. Pat Brown from Boat Outfitters in Orlando designed and manufactured black Corian tops for the monument.  All donated to the project at no cost.
World Trade Center Artifact Escort Team
 Right to left, Kevin Smith, President of TWU Local 525, KSC FDDriver Tom Van Horn, KSC FD Lt. Danny Seawright, KSC FD Chief Richard Anderson, KSC FD Lt. Jim Dumont, KSC FD Lt. Thomas Derr and Sean Doyle International Vice President of TWU Air Transportation Division 

Captain Paddy Brown, Lost on September 11, 2001 

One of the highlights of our journey for me was receiving the WTC artifact from the hanger at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Seeing it in real life for the first time took my breath away as it rolled out on a freshly painted red, white and blue American Airlines tug. Its unique character expresses a charisma of its own, and the reality and importance of our mission touch my heart. During this reception, an American Airlines employee asked permission to place a photo of his brother-in-law who was lost his life in the attacks , Captain Patrick Brown, on the artifact for the trip back to KSC, and I'm proud to say we were deeply touch and honored to have Paddy join us on our incredible journey.

Right to left, Kevin Smith, President of TWU Local 525, Angelo Cucuzza Executive Vice President of Local 501 and Sean Doyle International Vice President of TWU Air Transportation Division 
In closing, I would like to thank the three TWU Executives above for making this journey possible, and helping us honor this hallowed WTC Artifact in the most respectful and dignified manner.  They not only covered our travel expenses, they accompanied us as members of the escort team on every step of our journey to remember those lost in the attacks of September 11, 2001.  I love each and every one of you as through you were my brother, again thank you from the bottom of my heart.

This story is too long to tell in an article, but through the photo links above provided by Mary Matthews who chronologically documented every step of our journey from our arrival in New York to the final placement of the artifact.  From the lens of her camera, you will see and feel the passion, horror and respect of all who crossed paths with this artifact. Yes, it is just a piece of steel; a piece of steel in its final resting place serving as a hallowed and constant reminder of this tragic event, those we lost and the extensive pride we all share in our hearts for our country and our freedom.

As these fire fighters hurried up the stairwells of the WTC on that faithful day they  shook hands and  said goodbye to each other as they knew their fate was waiting in those burning towers.  It is with my highest regard and respect I salute them and shed my tears of pride.

 So, the next time you hear a siren approaching, please say a prayer fire fighters safety and courage and for those we lost on September 11th.

We Will Never Forget!

Captain Tom Van Horn

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Kennedy Space Center Fire Fighters Memorial 9-11 Artifact Precision Route

Friday August 14th 0800 Depart Miami International Airport 11:00 I-95 north to SR 404 Pineda Causeway 12:00 US 1 to SR 405 NASA Causeway 12:30 Reach Fire Station 1