Hosted by the Red Deer Rotary Clubs, the recent Mac & Cheese Luncheon raised funds for the Red Deer Royals’ plan to build a facility.
Organizers say about $85,000 was raised overall. Some of the proceeds will go to the Red Deer Royals Alumni Association’s ‘Find a Home’ campaign.
The event, held at the Sheraton Hotel last week, also featured Richard Picciotto, FDNY Chief and highest ranking firefighter to survive the World Trade Centre collapse on Sept. 11, 2001.
Following the attack, Picciotto rushed inside the World Trade Center to rescue those inside, but soon found himself trapped in the smoldering rubble of the north tower after its collapse. After having been on the scene at the 1993 explosion at the WTC, he said he knew immediately it was a terrorist attack.
Picciotto’s talk was poignant and inspiring, recounting the single-minded focus of firefighters and rescue workers as they struggled in the midst of chaos to save lives – going up against the flow of people frantically streaming downstairs.
“The average fireman is carrying about 100 lbs of equipment,” he added. “It was also tremendous to see the people helping each other.” Folks were carrying injured people and others in wheelchairs, for example.
He also recounted the terror that ripped through the area that day, and how when he was in the north tower on the 35th floor he heard the deafening collapse of the south tower. “That noise completely enveloped me – it was all around me. I could literally feel the noise and I could feel it go right through my body.
“One of my first thoughts was wondering how many people that I knew just died? How many people were in that building?” The south tower collapsed in just 10 seconds.
The grim realization then hit him that the north tower he was in would likely follow suit. “I’m thinking I have to get everyone out of here as soon as possible.”
Minutes later the north tower came crashing down. “The noise is 1,000 times louder as when the other tower came down.” It took the north tower eight seconds to collapse.
“People tell you right before you die, your life flashes before you. That’s kind of what happened to me. I thought about my wife and my kids. And I was praying. It was a compilation of every prayer I ever knew.” He said he accepted the fact he was about to die and prayed it would be quick. “I knew what was happening.”
Then the floor he was standing on disintegrated and everything went black.
“In a split second that noise and that violence was gone.”
He and those with him were trapped for several hours.
Miraculously, he emerged almost unscathed and was the highest-ranking firefighter to survive the collapse. Picciotto eventually testified in front of the 9/11 Commission, and has appeared on many major networks including CNN, the History Channel, and National Geographic. His book, Last Man Down, chronicles his harrowing experience on 9/11.
These days, his message touches on leadership – not only in life and death decisions but also the skills that benefit a spectrum of organizations. He also emphasized what really matters in life.
“My number one thing today is that you have to put priorities on your life. I can’t tell you what those priorities should be, but I can tell you that anytime there is a tragedy, you become very focused on what’s important. What do you become focused on? Family and friends,” he said. “We take it for granted until we don’t have it.”