Stories of Kindness from Around the World

One of a Thousand Stories to Tell

--by David G. Nadeau, posted Sep 10, 2007
Hello, my name is David G. Nadeau and I am from Monroe, Michigan, hometown of General Armstrong Custer. I am a paid-on-call Firefighter for Monroe Township Fire Department and I was at Ground Zero for one week starting September 12, 2001. Some of my hundred or so pictures from Ground Zero have been published in EMS magazines. Newspaper reporters from Cooperstown, New York and Lexington, Kentucky call me wanting to publish this story. That is because someone from the family of the business card I found at Ground Zero told the reporters this story – a story about a business card which is just one of a thousand stories to tell.

I arrived at Ground Zero on September 12, 2001 with another Firefighter. After several hours of working at the front of a bucket brigade on Friday, September 14 – just one of many bucket brigades -- there came an opening in the debris pile just big enough for one person to fit in. With the help of a New York Firefighter holding my fire boots, I went down the opening with a flashlight. While down in the hole, everyone up above yelled to be quiet -- at this time we were still hoping to find survivors. I prayed to God to let me find a survivor. There was none. While backing out of the hole with the help of the New York Firefighter (this hole was very small and tight), dust and debris in the hole was all around me.  The dust was very thick. The void was around 6 to 10 feet deep, and once in opened to a 20 foot circle. Just as I was coming out of the hole, something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention, and for some reason (I still do not know why), I caught this piece of paper just as it was falling through the air back in to the void.

When I stood up, the New York Firefighter who helped me out of the hole was standing behind me and saw what it was I had in my hands. He said “Do you know what you found?” I said “No, I do not”. He asked “Haven’t you seen the news?” I said no -- working these long hours, there was no time to. He said piece of paper is the business card of a man that was the Vice President of Canter Fitzgerald from the south tower that lost several hundred employees. The New York Firefighter said he could not believe the business card survived in all of this fire and destruction, as we stood on a 25-30 foot pile of debris. The card came from the 104th floor of the south tower.  It was dirty, but legible. I asked the New York Firefighter if he wanted the business card. He said, “No, you came this far to help us, you keep it brother”.  That is what he called me, brother.  And the whole time there, we called each other brother. Firefighters from all over the country were there, and we called each other brother, not Firefighter. Firefighters have had traditions for years, and this is one I will never forget.

Out of the million tons of debris, I found the business card of a man that was working, providing for his family that horrible September day. And no matter what kind of job those people had, from janitor to vice president of a large company, or how much money they made, they were all there that day providing for their family. Little did I know how much this business card would affect me for the rest of my life.

After a week at Ground Zero, I came home alone. I drove my own vehicle there. The other 18 Firefighters from Monroe County left a day and a half earlier. I wanted to stay as long as I could, but it started to take a toll on my five and seven year old boys. That was the longest drive of my entire life. One thing I will never forget while driving home is the newspaper reporter from the Toledo Blade who called my cell phone. He heard I was there at Ground Zero and someone gave him my cell phone number. As he was asking questions about what I did at Ground Zero, a song started playing on the radio. It was, “I Am Already There”, by Lonestar (with inserts from the WTC disaster playing in the background). I was so tired from this last week and driving home alone, and that being my son’s favorite song, I started to cry. Yes, Firefighters do cry. With the reporter on the cell phone, I told him I could not talk, hung up, and had to pull over to the side of the road.

when I was there and I know he had everything to do with this. I know he had put me there at that time and at that place for a reason.  I know there are better people in this world, but for whatever reason, God wanted me to be the one to find that business card.

After a few phone calls and with the wonderful help of a wonderful woman from Canter Fitzgerald that I do not know (though I wish I did), I found this man’s family. This woman from Canter Fitzgerald got a hold of the wife of the man whose business card I had found. With the courage of a million people, this man’s wife called me at my home one night a couple of days after I had talked to this woman from Canter Fitzgerald about the business card I had found.  You see, I did not know if I would get a call back from Canter Fitzgerald about the business card I had found. The woman from Canter Fitzgerald told me she did not know how she was going to approach the family about this business card. I felt she thought I was nuts after I told her my story about finding it, so I did not expect a call back, much less a call from the wife of this man.

She began by telling me who she was and asked me if I was the Firefighter who found her husband’s business card at Ground Zero. When I told her it was me, she began to cry, and that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I mean, I have to tell many people in my career as a Firefighter that their loved one has passed away, but this was the hardest thing for me ever.  While I talked to her the best I could under the circumstances, I kept as calm as I could. She wanted to know where I found the card, how I found the card and if I had any pictures of where I found the card. What I thought was one of the saddest things (next to my own seven year old son asking me on the phone while at Ground Zero if I had found any more bodies) she asked if I would send her the card and the pictures of where I found it. I told her, “No problem”. At that moment, I knew God wanted me to find that business card so I could hold onto it until I could find her. Can you imagine one day you a!
I made it home and a couple of weeks had gone by, but every day that did, I could not stop thinking of what I had seen and the business card I had found. I was watching TV and saw a program about how families that lost their loved ones at the WTC were hoping to find something of their loved ones to hold on to. I got goose bumps when I saw this show, and even today as I write this, I still get goose bumps. I knew then I needed to find someone in this man’s family, even though this was only a business card. There was a name of a man on this card and I knew he had a family that was missing him. You see, when I found this man’s business card and was standing there holding that business card at Ground Zero, and after what that New York Firefighter said to me, I had the strangest feeling come over me. While standing on that huge pile of debris, holding that business card in my hand, something told me this man did not suffer. I believe in God, and believe me, I talked to him a lot regarding kissing your loved one in the morning before they leave for work, and then you turn on your TV and see the worst disaster in American history, knowing your loved one was in there? I cannot imagine that horrible feeling those people felt seeing that unfold before their very own eyes. You see, the family of this man heard he had gotten out when the towers came down and was in the hospital with smoke inhalation problems.  But several hours later found out differently.

I don’t think people outside the families that lost loved ones that day, realize these people will see and hear about this disaster every day for many years to come. I would take away the pain for every one of those family members if I could so they would not have to see or hear about that terrible day ever again. But, I am just one person in this world and that is what I have to deal with every day of my life. Just like many others in this world, I feel great helplessness knowing I cannot help. However, I did get to help one family in this terrible disaster. You hear about all the heroism and people helping each other -- all the Fire, Police, EMS -- and the loss of life of a loved one that was taken from this world and their families on that terrible day. I have not even come close to comparing it to the courage and fortitude of those great people because of that cowardice act. However, it helps me sleep at night to know that on the saddest day in American history, I got to help one family that suffered so much. And in whatever way, no matter how small of a part it was, it feels good to know that they can start to heal some of the pain.

I sent the business card and pictures with a letter that I had written to the wife of that man’s family. And after she received the business card, pictures and letter, sisters and brothers of this man have called me. Newspaper reporters from different parts of the country have called to say how touched the family was about the letter I wrote and sent with the business card and pictures, and they wanted to put my letter in their hometown paper. When I started this, I was afraid that by contacting this family it would only hurt them even more, and that was the last thing I wanted to do. But like I said, God only knows why he put me there that fateful day.

The saddest thing about this whole story is the brother and the other family members that worked in the financial district had to run away, and then witness the towers come crashing down. And the man of the business card that I had found escaped the attacks on the WTC in 1993 and was  a “hero” himself that day in 1993 by helping a woman get out of the building safely. Nobody will ever know how that business card survived from the 104th floor of the south tower for me to find it among all the debris, but I am glad that I was the one that did.

In April 2002, I met the man’s wife and family members at a restaurant called Park Avenue Country Club in New York. They showed me the power of love. They hugged me, and cried with me, and told me so many people were touched by my letter.  Then they showed me pictures of a loving father, husband, brother and family member. Pictures just as I have of my sons and family. The restaurant refused to let us pay for anything that night.  The restaurant owner treated us like we were someone famous. When we left the restaurant that night, the wife of this man came up to me, hugged me, told me thank you. With tears in both of our eyes, we walked away. At that very moment, I never felt more proud about being a Firefighter and I knew that I completed the journey that God had started for me back on September 14, 2001.

The next day, the brother of this man gave us a tour of the New York stock exchange. While there, people came up to us to shaking our hands and saying thank you. One very nice man that was introduced to us by his brother told me that the letter touched the family so much, then handed me a check for $500, which I gave to my own Fire Department. While in New York, we were there to give a check for $31,600 to the New York Port Authority Police Department. We have given money before to the New York Fire Department, but after seeing a story on the Port Authority Police and how little they were getting for losing 37 of their own, we decided to give the money that the people of Monroe County, Michigan had given us in two days from a fire boot and bottle drive.

Just before we left the hotel to head to Ground Zero to present the check to the Port Authority Police, one of the brothers from this man’s family called me on my cell phone. He asked me if he could go with us to present the check to the Port Authority Police. On April 5, 2002, we went back to Ground Zero, with a new friend and a man that lost a brother on September 11, 2001.  During the presentation of the check, this brother watched and was touched by what we were doing for the Port Authority Police. But I knew he was there for a very different reason, he got to say goodbye to his brother that day. My reason was for my own closure, and for him…..I think he realized that you can’t let them win, you have to carry on. Whatever the reason, it helped two people come together from different parts of this country. And all because of a terrible, senseless act, it helped them both in so many ways and different levels.

No matter how small a part I played in this, there are some people in this world able to face the day once more because God put me there that day. Though I was there only a week, this one event has affected me more than anything in my life. The nightmares are less frequent. I can’t imagine the people that have been there since 9/11 working effortlessly day and night. And how the rest of their lives will never be the same, these are true heroes. And this disaster is about the people of New York, Firefighters, Police, EMS that gave the worst price of all -- their lives. I just wanted to say there were people from all over the world, from small towns like mine, there to help the people of New York. And if you ever need us again (God forbid), we will be there -- Semper Fi. The reason I did not say this man’s family name is I don’t know if they would have liked that.

Who would have thought that a small business card could have touched so many lives in so many different ways? The brother that went with us to Ground Zero was the first of this family to go since 9/11. He dug deep down inside himself that day and came with us to represent this enduring, courageous family so he could say goodbye for them. And for someone that I have never met before in my life, this man of this business card had a family that I knew loved him very much and had touched my life in so many different ways. To this date, they have not found or identified this man. This business card may be the only thing they have left.

God bless all the families and the people of New York that were affected by this.  I Salute You and hope some day the pain is not so strong.
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Readers Comments

thaata wrote: I have greatest regards for fire fighters and you have boosted my conviction. A business card meant for you to find and bring closure to the victims of senseless destruction of life and property. Pray god to endow this world with more of you.
AnnieJ wrote: This is one of the most touching and poignant things i've read in a while. It's so heartfelt - i felt myself getting goosebumps or tears in my eyes. God put you there on that day for a reason, and i'm glad he picked you to do it! You had the courage to reach out to that family and help them heal. And make a new friend!

Bless you! I am grateful this planet has people like you.
carlos wrote: Thats amazing
bilkis.yusuf wrote: Wonderful story that touches my heart, may god bless all those firefighters and many others who on that fateful day helped in so many ways risking their own lives to help others
sethi wrote: Thank you friend for your act of love and compassion. God bless.
katlampi wrote: It is amazing to hear the firsthand experiences of someone who was there that day, and risking their life to rescue others. It is so good that you were able to offer some closure to the family members of victims. Thank you for sharing this.
Andrew wrote: Truly Awesome.
Patricia wrote: What a heartfelt story , thank you for sharing this with others. A great big thanks ! :}
lovebug wrote: My oldest sons name is David, He was born September llth. He has grown into a fine man of God, just like yourself. I am proud to call you brother. May God honor all of your prayers.

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