As noted in my pre-blast, I signed up to Q this workout several weeks ago when it was still a BlackOps. In the weeks leading up to the Q, I was stoked with excitement about what I had planned. But, in the days before I began to get concerned that I’d fail – as a volunteer firefighter I had high expectations for myself. That I wouldn’t honor the men and women of FDNY the right way. That it wouldn’t be impactful for the PAX. That it wouldn’t be a meaningful and hard workout. Even the night before I was second guessing what I had in store as one of my original ideas faded like a fart in the wind.
But, the one thing that I don’t shy away from is the fear of failure. Failing is a fact of life. It’s how we learn. It’s how we get better. So, I put on my big girl panties this morning on September 11 and drove my happy ass to The Garden.
I arrived early. Like, super early. Like, Nino-esque, epic set-up effort required, early. After all, this is The Garden, right? I have to dress to impress. It was 4:50am when I rolled into the parking lot finding nothing but a work trailer that I saw earlier in the week when I did some reconnaissance of the campus. Perfect.
The reason for the early arrival is I had 343 plastic fire helmets to set up. As most may know, there were 343 FDNY firefighters that perished on September 11, 2001 – so, one helmet for each firefighter. For future reference: those plastic fire helmets are a PITA to get separated. I think I have about 343 plastic cuts on my fingers [well, maybe 250 because Site Q, Jewel, arrived early to help…okay, okay – maybe it’s only one]. I also picked up The Station’s shovel flag from Captain Crunchberry in advance. Here’s the final setup:
Once the setup was complete, I joined the PAX at the normal starting spot, which was around 5:25am. Whew – workout hasn’t even started and I was definitely breaking a sweat.
Time was called and the standard disclaimer was provided. The following brave men woke up this morning and CHOSE to join me and get better to honor FDNY’s fallen:
- Mr. Clean
- Stick Up
- Mr. Roper
- Bulletin (R)
- Huskey (R)
- Ladybird (R) + Emma
- Diane Dukes
- Jimmy Neutron
- Wide Right
- Jolly Rancher (Q)
We picked up our coupons and made our way over to the line of helmets for some COP.
- 9 SSH in cadence
- 11 Copperhead Squats in cadence
- 9 SSH in cadence
- 11 Toy Soldiers in cadence
- 9 SSH in cadence
- 11 Hillbillies in cadence
9 and 11 reps of course. Then, I introduced the Thang.
THE THANG – HONOR THE FALLEN:
To channel a little bit of my inner-Tony Malito: it was the one and only thang; the hummy humdinger; the creme de la creme; the show stopper; the most exciting 40-minutes in F3 History. That’s all that would be needed today.
Basically, for those auditor types out there, there was 293 helmets close to the flag. And, there were another 50 helmets on the left side of the island – for a total of, yep, you got it – 343. Each of the 50 had a specific rep count and exercise under the brim of the helmet.
Those exercises included the following – 5 helmets for each:
- 25x SSH
- 25x Curls
- 25x Skull Crushers
- 25x Thrusters [sorry, Garden PAX – back-to-back days of Thrusters]
- 10x Burpees
- 25x Goiners
- 25x Plank Jacks
- 25x Big Boy Situps
- 25x Merkins
- Something else that I can’t remember…
Since we had 14 PAX, we split into two groups to be mindful of social distancing as follows:
- Group 1 – Set out for a mosey up towards The Baptizer where there were two options. First, was the first set of steps that you get to which has 51 steps and the second, which is a little further up towards The Baptizer, which only has 29 steps. The goal is the intervals are the same regardless of which option the PAX chose. Once at the summit of the steps, back down to the helmets.
- Group 2 – Started at the helmets. Objective was to select a helmet and complete the required exercise and then follow behind Group 1 towards the steps.
My ask of the PAX was that while they were at the helmets doing the work to not talk and instead just listen. But, Jolly, what did they listen to?
Instead of a traditional Snoop or other epic playlist, I chose to play the sounds that those FDNY firefighters listened to as they donned their gear, hopped on the trucks and made their way down to the World Trade Centers. Yep, you got it – I played the Manhattan Fire Dispatch tape. The dispatch tape starts at 08:46:43 when Battalion 1 contacts dispatch and advises them that an airplane has just struck the World Trade Center. We played the first 20-minutes or so where constant reports are coming in of tens of hundreds of people stuck in various floors of the first tower. And then I fast forwarded to the 70-minute mark, which is a few minutes before the first tower collapsed – and a few minutes after that were a civilian finds refuge in a firetruck after the collapse and is begging and pleading with Dispatch for help. Unforgettable. And something that sends chills down your spine regardless of how many times you hear it.
For the PAX not present, I urge you to listen on your own free time:
FDNY Manhattan Dispatch from 09/11/2001: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJS3vMN6ewM
We basically rinsed and repeated this back and forth to the helmets and steps and up and down the steps until time was called. I honestly can’t remember how many laps I did, but I believe it may have been 8 or 9. I’m certain a few of the others eclipsed double digits. So, conservatively we did well over the number of steps it took to get up 110 floors, which was the height of the Twin Towers.
The steps surprisingly didn’t get too crowded. So it worked perfectly [or at least in my eyes – the PAX can be the judge].
Time was called and we circled up next to the helmets for COT.
Completed countarama, namearama, intentions and prayer requests.
September 11, 2001 is our generation’s Pearl Harbor, or JFK assassination. We’ll always remember where we were when we heard what was going on. I was walking to class when a friend sent me a text message. I had no idea what the World Trade Center even was. And then I started getting text messages with a play-by-play from Captain Crunchberry [who is also a volunteer firefighter] while in class. The entire class was the same. Unable to concentrate, the professor decided to call it quits.
So, like others I went home and watch the rest of the day’s events unfold on television. To this day I still watch all of the 09/11 related shows in the week leading up to – or day of – the anniversary. It’s mesmerizing to me. The incredible stories of not just the members of FDNY but the civilians who stepped up and became heroes in an instant.
We are all capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for – it’s what we’ve known since each of us became PAX from FNGs. Each post is no different – pushing ourselves to do something. And the ruck or CSAUP events where we push ourselves to go above and beyond.
The symbolic nature of raising that fire helmet, not knowing what exercise we’d be dealt is the same thing that many FDNY firefighters and others experienced on that fateful day. And we think Burpees or Thrusters or some other exercise sucks…shew – that’s nothing, boys.
Remember: All gave some; and some gave all. And let us never forget.
Honored to lead these PAX on such a meaningful day. I just hope that we remember what we, as a nation, did in the days and weeks after – and at some point I pray we find those times again soon to rally behind and actually support one another versus tear each other down.
Jolly Rancher out!