New York Firefighter Spreads 9/11 Message

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ALEXANDRA OLSON
Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- The slide showing people jumping to their deaths from a World Trade Center tower on Sept. 11, 2001, drew gasps from the audience at the Museum of Science in Caracas.

"Hundreds of people in the top floors had a tough decision to make,'' retired New York firefighter Dan Daly said Thursday as he narrated the slide show. "And many people chose to jump instead of burn to death.''

The world is unlikely to forget such images. But Daly, who was captain of Engine 54 on Sept. 11 and retired in November, wants to make sure people don't forget something else: the way America came together in the aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks.

In tours sponsored by the U.S. State Department, the 54-year-old firefighter has spent the last year speaking to school children, rescue workers and government officials in Chile, Brazil, Paraguay and Nicaragua.

Thursday's presentation was his last during a seven-day visit to Venezuela. He also addressed students in Caracas and two other cities.

"After Sept. 11, I was so angry I felt like picking up a gun,'' he said. "Instead, I picked up a microphone. It's part of my healing process.''

Daly told of looking up one day "on top of that horrible pile'' and feeling uplifted by the dozens of volunteers from across the world working by his side.

He remembers the night 200 New Yorkers held a candlelight vigil and sang "God Bless America'' outside his firehouse. He recalls one firefighter who rushed to the scene despite being on sick leave. He left a note at a firehouse: "I'm going into the towers to see if I can help. If I do not return, please tell my wife and children I love them very much.'' He didn't make it back.

A college girl came by with drinks one day. Priests and chiropractors set up tables. At first firefighters wrinkled their noses at the chiropractors "but after the second or third week the tables were always full,'' Daly said to chuckles from the audience.

"The good deeds were too many to count,'' Daly said, wearing his black dress uniform. "To me, the legacy of Sept. 11 is people coming together. I hope people realize the power we have when it comes to compassion and teamwork.''

There were also tragic stories. Daly paused at photograph of firefighters whisking away the body of New York Fire Department chaplain Michael Judge.

"He would always be there on the front line while we were putting out fires. So it was that he lost his life on Sept. 11,'' he said.

He stops at another photograph of a line of firefighters carefully picking through rubble. He remembers being in one of those lines one day and asking the firefighter next to him if he knew anyone who was missing. "Yes, my brother. I'm digging for my brother,'' was the reply.

Daly doesn't mention the Iraq war during his presentations, but audiences frequently bring it up, he said.

"There have been some tough questions from the young children,'' he said before the slide show. "They want to know how the United States can talk about peace and attack Iraq.''

Daly supports the war and tells listeners why.

"I'm a New York firefighter who spent a lot of time digging up body parts at Ground Zero,'' he said. "I've seen what terrorism can do to people. These are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary means.''

But Iraq didn't come up during Thursday's talk. The presentation had the effect Daly wanted.

"It inspired me to continue doing what I'm doing,'' said Dixon Linch, a 25-year-old firefighter in the audience. "To know that more than 300 of our colleagues died _ It's an indescribable feeling.''

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