My Weekend With Some Every Day Heroes
Greg Valentine, reporter for ESPN's 'Firefighter Combat Challenge' In the aftermath of September 11th, I wrote a heartfelt to tribute to firefighters. It was posted on the Q104 Cleveland website at the time. It's reposted here, with gratitude to those who risk their lives for the rest of us.

I got to know some pretty incredible men and women a few years ago. In the unspeakable sadness and loss after the attacks on the World Trade Center, I reflected back to the many firefighters I had met just three years earlier. Those memories have simultaneously lifted my spirits, and wounded me further, knowing that 350 firefighters were lost on September 11th, 2001.

Fall of 1998, I was asked to be part of an event called "The Firefighter Combat Challenge." The Challenge is a friendly, but fiercely fought, competition between teams of firemen from all around the United States and Canada. It involves running an obstacle course. Things like racing up a 5-story tower, pulling a fully loaded firehose (250 pounds of "dragging weight!"), and carrying a 175-pound mannequin across the finish line. They run it in their full fireman's gear, complete with oxygen tanks and protective facemasks. And it's a race, so they try and run it faster than the other guy.

At the finish line, usually 90 or so seconds after they began, they are fully spent: dripping in sweat, hearts pounding ferociously, out-of-breath. The obstacle course is a reflection of the many tasks and chores the firemen will encounter during a "live fire." They compete as teams because for a firefighter, teamwork is everything, and the only thing. Naturally, there's a trophy and bragging rights for the next year.

The yearly finals are called "The World Challenge," and are televised (usually on ESPN). They asked me to be a last-minute replacement for an ailing member of the broadcast team. I was brought in as a "reporter," but I quickly became a "fan."

Firefighter Combat Challenge You can't help but marvel at the physical strength required of the job. But also of their strength of compassion, strength of conviction, and strength of character. Saving lives, protecting property, pride in a job well done.

So September 11th, I thought of those brave firefighters rushing into the blazing inferno that was the World Trade Center. They got so many people out of there; saved them from what we now know was certain death. Each firefighter went in, instinctively, to save more lives. Each knew they could lose their own. None knew that, on that day, they would.

During our weekend of filming for the Firefighter Combat Challenge, I was privileged to join a bunch of them on a visit to a children's hospital. This is something they do all the time. The firefighters brought pure joy to some really terrific kids, showing up in their uniforms, with their smiles, and tons of stuffed bears. They buy the bears with money they collect from their communities. I was profoundly moved.

Now it's time for us to "collect" on their behalf. I strongly urge you to make a donation to the Fallen Firefighters Fund. I ask that you extend your support beyond this moment of national tragedy. In the years ahead, when you get a chance, tell a firefighter, "thanks." They are every day heroes.
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