January 26, 2002

NYC Firefighters Take Germany Trip

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 11:46 a.m. ET

HINTERZARTEN, Germany (AP) -- The three firefighting Cashins had never been to Germany before, but the brothers from New York soon felt at home in this tranquil Black Forest town known for its ski champions.

Invited by German firefighters eager to show solidarity with colleagues who suffered losses in the attack on the World Trade Center, the Cashins -- Thomas, Jim and Terence -- came with their wives for a week capped by a cross-country ski race with European firefighters Sunday.

Getting away to this idyllic town of 2,500 -- with its wood-shingled houses and onion-domed church -- cannot erase the sadness the brothers carry with them. But they said the warm reception from townspeople and the local volunteer fire department made it more than just a trip abroad.

``This isn't a strict vacation, but more of an honor,'' said Jim Cashin, 43, a New York City firefighter like his brothers. ``They respect us, they've shown they appreciate us, and that means a lot.''

None of the Cashins knows much more German than ``Danke schoen,'' but with the help of an interpreter and a videotape they brought, they told 200 colleagues about their efforts at the World Trade Center.

``Watching the video was hard,'' said Terence Cashin, 48, a fire department captain. ``I can talk about ground zero in general, but when you get to specifics, people, faces, that's hard.''

The Cashins lost scores of friends and coworkers in the Sept. 11 attack, which killed 343 New York City firefighters. Off duty that day, all three brothers went to the scene to help.

Like firefighters across Germany, Hinterzarten's volunteers contributed to a drive that has raised about $1 million for a fund for families of firefighters who died Sept. 11, the New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund.

But fire chief Gerhard Schnur said his volunteers thought just donating money was too impersonal, so they decided to sponsor a visit.

``This is a sign from us that we are with you, in your suffering, and also in your joys,'' said Schnur, who is putting the Cashins up at his family's inn.

The visitors are getting ski lessons -- and they may need them. They will compete against some 400 firefighters from Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria in Sunday's race.

The brothers took a break from their lessons to sample the fiery locally distilled schnapps, and in another light moment joked with local Olympic ski hero Georg Thoma about his first attempts at ski jumping off the roof of his family's farmhouse.

The New Yorkers are already planning to return the Black Forest with their children, and Thomas Cashin expects his first German guest to stop by next week at his home in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn.


``This puts your faith back in people,'' he said. ``September 11 was a rallying cry for good people the world over to come together.''


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