To honor and remember

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It’s a unique rolling memorial; one made up of the only two Fire Department City of New York (FDNY) pumper trucks to survive the September 11 attacks on the twin towers of World Trade Center and designed to honor the 343 FDNY firefighters who died in the line of duty that terrible day.

Indeed, Rescue 4 and Rescue 5 represent more than mere metal, for the nine firefighters aboard the former and the 11 crewing the latter all died at the World Trade Center complex – rushing to the sounds of destruction and horror to save as many lives as they thought they could. Instead, they lost their own.

Making an appearance this week at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, the Remembrance Rescue Project – as it’s called – acquired the 1996-model Rescue 4 after its removal from service, completely restoring it by September 2011. It now operates from Texas. The Project then acquired the last of the surviving FDNY rescues, Rescue 5, in December 2011 and now operates it out of Chicago.

Yet the upkeep of such fire trucks isn’t easy – or cheap. Indeed, not only are they nearing 20 years in age, they simply aren’t designed to drive long distances like highway tractors – and that’s what Rescue 4 and 5 do, of course, as they travel from city to city, appearing at schools, community events, and other locations with their volunteer crews to keep the memory of the FDNY’s sacrifice on Sept. 11 alive in the American conscience.

It’s this “historical nature” of the Remembrance Rescue Project that stuck in the mind of Jackie Pobiega, communications manager of commercial vehicle tires for Continental Tire the Americas, LLC, nearly three years ago.

“They reached out to us in 2010 to ask for a donation; maybe some tires to help keep their trucks running,” she told me by phone.

“It just tugs at your emotions. We’re also a historically-oriented company – our brand just turned 140 years old – so we could readily see how this project is great way not only to respect what the fire fighters did that day but keep the history of that day alive as well.”

That’s when she said the “magic of the trucking industry” came into play (and oh what a wonderful phrase!) with Continental and other industry supplies coming together to help support the Remembrance Rescue Project.

  • Continental is providing replacement truck tires for the two Rescue trucks – sets of HTC1 steer and HDR2 drive tires designed to handle long highway miles of operation.
  • Detroit – which built the original Series 60 engines that still power the project’s two rescue trucks – is providing a multi-year donation of engine maintenance funds to help the volunteers pay for routine engine maintenance in order to keep up with the demands of their appearance schedule.
  • Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products is providing forged aluminum wheels to replace the aging units on the vehicles, as well as help reduce wheel maintenance costs going forward.
  • Snider Fleet Solutions, headquartered in Greensboro, N.C., not only will install the new Alcoa wheels but mount and balance the new Continental tires on the trucks as well.

“These trucks were considered old even by the time they responded to the September 11 attacks, so maintenance going forward will be a huge concern,” Pobiega told me. “That’s why the network and support from all these suppliers to the trucking industry is so important.”

She added that the fire fighters who arrange events and travel the country with the restored engines, which serve as memorials to the fallen and help raise funds for family support are all volunteers – using weeks of their own personal vacation time to leave family and friends behind so they can drive the Rescue trucks to public events, auto shows, fire industry events and schools to promote fire education and support other firefighter charities.

“Everyone is a volunteer on this project; that’s why all of the suppliers involved feel so strongly about it,” Pobiega told me.

It’s also great, though, to see the heartfelt “magic” of this industry support such worthy work. 

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