Firefighters Down Benefit Concert Memorializes Late Firefighters, More
by Barbara Burke
Malibu Surfside News
On the evening of Sept. 11, a crowd gathered at Pepperdine’s Smothers Theater to pause and reflect on three principles: remembrance, awareness and action.
The Firefighters Down 9/11 benefit concert offered an evening of music, as well as an opportunity to support injured firefighters across the nation.
Firefighters Down was created by LA County fire captains Mike Henry and Rick Brandelli after their friend, who was a fire captain, reportedly committed suicide.
Henry and Brandelli created the organization to provide support to firefighters dealing with the effects of rescuing victims from everything from terrorism to accidents to horrendous, out-of-control fires.
“Our firefighters do their jobs so well and we take them for granted,” said Malibu resident and famed actor Lou Gossett Jr., a special guest speaker at the event. “We are unaware of the atrocities that they see. They only ask us to get out of the way so they can do their jobs. Every single person in America is protected by them.”
The event featured a touching and beautifully shot film depicting the horrors that firefighters encounter each day, as well as the unique challenges firefighters encountered on Sept. 11.
“We always have to remember,” attendee Caitlyn Jenner said as she provided support to the cause.
In the film, Henry converses with everyday citizens eliciting their thoughts on the emotional challenges that firefighters encounter and the ripple effects their sometimes haunting, stressful experiences have on those they love as well as their colleagues.
“When there is a collapse, a crush, an injury, a death or an illness, Firefighters Down wants to be able to respond and support the firefighters and their families,” Henry explained. “We want to bring them to Malibu and provide them support consisting of multiple therapies for them and their family members.”
The program offers a four-day intensive therapeutic and rehabilitation program for firefighters.
The film revealed that most Americans do not realize that more than 30,000 firefighters are injured each year on the job and that the rates of PTSD, suicide, divorce, depression and addiction – consequences of firefighters dealing with the stressors inherent in their job – take serious tolls on firefighters, those who love and work with them, and in turn, on the greater community. Dr. Stephen Johnson, psychotherapist for the organization, discussed the effect of stress on first responders, explaining the lengthy process of healing.
“Acute trauma can take three to four months to heal,” he said. “PTSD can take months or years.”
Henry emphasized that one of the most healing things for those affected by these challenging conditions and emotions is so very simple: showing appreciation to the firefighters for what they have done for all of us.
“We want to take the firefighters down to the Pier, to dinner, to help them relax and know that we are all thankful for all that they have done,” he said.
Of course, the stressors are an institutional hazard.
“When there is an event, as all the people are running away, we’re running in,” Brandelli said. “Someone has to take care of the problem. That’s what we do.”
The benefit concert featured A Flock of Seagulls, a British ’80s pop band. Attendees appreciated the entertainment as they paused and reflected on the presentation and how fitting it was on 9/11 to focus on supporting first responders and fallen firefighters’ unique needs.
“This was enlightening, informative, sincere and heartfelt,” attendee Regina Grundy said. “It’s imperative for people to know about the mental stability needs of our firefighters.”
Attendee Karin Lloy (Von Falckenberg) was very touched by the presentation.
“We all know the importance of firefighters as individuals, their being there for children, the elderly, the animal kingdom, our city, to help with elderly people, to help with traffic and to help those who are ill,” she said. “They are always there and it takes a very special person to dedicate their whole life to doing this tremendous task. At 9/11, I realized that it was not just the loss of so many souls, but of our firefighters who could not run, but who had to go in and provide the victims help. In an age of so many catastrophes all over the world, we need to be especially grateful to them and support them.”
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The Men's Center Los Angeles is proud to support and endorse our very own Captain Mike Henry and this excellent wounded warriors program designed to assist Firefighters and the people who love and care about them. Your support of this important work is greatly appreciated.
For more information, call (310) 770-0766
Web: FirefightersDown.org; Facebook: FirefightersDown