Gympie firey back on the job
AN emotional journey in more ways than one started with a single step for Gympie fire fighter Rob Frey.
That single step was taken on August 12 at the Santa Monica Pier and began a gruelling 7600km run across the width of the United States of America to pay homage to emergency response workers and civilians who died in the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
Mr Frey returned to work yesterday after the five-week trek and it was a busy Monday with car crashes taking up much of the day.
It wasn't much of a holiday running across the USA, Mr Frey agreed, saying he and his Tour of Duty team ran from Los Angeles to New York City, ending in the early hours of September 11.
“Running into New York was very emotional, we were lucky to be embraced by the New York fire department,” Mr Frey said yesterday.
Running onto the Brooklyn Bridge, the team was met by family members and former Prime Minister John Howard before heading to a memorial service. They then went to visit the site where the twin towers once stood, before being invited into a special service at ground zero with just fire and rescue personnel and their families.
“I was very lucky and humbled to be involved, now it's back to work.” After the run Mr Frey and his wife spent four days in New York together.
During the run, though, the going was tough, the weather hot and the days long.
“It was extremely emotional,” he said.
“It was a lot harder than I expected.
“The hardest part was the lack of sleep.
The team of fire fighters ran through desert, big cities and small towns and got to see many parts of the USA that tourists wouldn't normally visit at a rate of about five kilometres per hour.
Tour of Duty runners ran around the clock in shifts with six hours on and 12 hours off and only three rest days.
Mr Frey said the run was received well in the USA and by Australians, partly due to the fact that it was a non-political and non-religious event.
“It was really good and very special.”
The support of fellow fire fighters along the way in providing a place to rest and wash was uplifting for the runners.
“Up to 50 fire trucks met us in Chicago,” he said.
Mr Frey said Australian Ambassador Kim Beazley acknowledged the run had done more for relations between Australia and the USA in a few weeks than years of work.
“It was just a nice thing to do to pay our respects to the fallen and to educate.
“It was a terrible day in history and people tend to forget...There are some radical people hell bent on bringing evil to the world.
“The run brings this to the forefront.”
Mr Frey said the brotherhood of fire fighters was similar all over the world and Australian fireys felt the hurt of losing 411 emergency service workers' lives in the terror attack.
“It shows how we can do something good from something bad.
“It's something really great for Australian fire fighters to pay their respects.”