9/11 First Responder Sgt Rick Leonard Blogs About OU 9/11 Commemoration Event

Guest Blogger Sgt. Rick Leonard

On August 21st I participated in an event at Oakland University that celebrated veterans and first responders.  The event was sponsored by the Student Veterans of Oakland University.   I was invited because Sgt. Jim Stoinski, Det. Mike Thomas and I, along with Mike O’Hala (ret.) and Deputy Chief Hardesty (ret.) had participated in our Department’s response to New York City after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.  Some of you may not be aware, but our Department participated in a team of officers from Oakland County that responded to a nationwide mutual aid request from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.  Sometimes events become faded with time.  As a reminder, 2753 people died in the attacks on the twin towers, included were 343 firefighters and paramedics who were first responders and 60 police officers of the NYPD and Port Authority.

This event was centered on a screening of the film: “Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good”.  OU invited neighboring police and fire departments for a vehicle display and meet and greet prior to the screening.  There was a question and answer session after the movie with the movie’s director and producer, Jonathan Flora and myself.  Mr. Flora is an Emmy Award winning director that has done films for Disney and HBO.

At the event we were asked to comment on our thoughts and

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feelings after watching the movie.   How did it change my outlook on my role as a first responder when I returned?  They wanted to hear any interesting stories about my time at Ground Zero. I had never seen the movie they were screening prior to this event.  I had done some research and discovered the movie was about the philanthropic efforts of Gary Sinise the actor.  He is well known for his role in the movie Forrest Gump, but has been in many other films and currently stars in the CSI: New York television series.  The movie opens with the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th.  The footage is raw and real and hurts to watch.  I won’t go over the whole movie but, as I sat there, I was longing for a notepad to write down some quotes from Mr. Sinise and others throughout the film.  I’ll mention two:

Mr. Sinise is asked what made him start his work with the USO after 9-11.  His response was, ‘I was struck with the overwhelming feeling that I needed to do something to help.”

The second statement that struck home was from one of the many servicemen and women that are interviewed throughout the film.

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‘It’s about a sense of service to something greater than oneself.’

That’s it, in a nutshell.  That’s why we wear our badges and work unpleasant shifts.  That is why we are here at work while our families’ are celebrating holidays.  And frankly, I think, we all (myself included) get wrapped around the axle about small things and forget why we are here in the first place.  Following the movie, the question and answer session was very interesting.  At the end many attendees came up to shake my hand and offer their support for our profession.

Today is the 14th anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, if you have a chance see the movie I highly recommend it.  Those of us who were around will remember how we all felt that morning.  Those of us who were too young to remember might get a small feel of the bigger picture of the events of 9/11 and the global war on terror that followed.