Love, sweat and tears... a firefighter's story of 9/11 tribute

Firefighter David Jones was among colleagues

Firefighter David Jones was among colleagues who saluted those who lost their lives in 9/11 by undertaking a fundraising trek - Credit: David Jones

Clyst St George firefighter David Jones joined 10 colleagues to commemorate those who lost their lives in 9/11 and raise money for charity at the same time. This is his personal account of the day.

With this year being the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks our station wanted to do something big to mark the sad occasion, and to remind our local community to remember the fallen.

After much discussion the idea was born to utilise the number of the 343 firefighters that died and the 20th anniversary into our 343/20 challenge. 

The idea being any challenge that we do must equate to those numbers, such as cycle 343 miles, throw a ball 343 times, climb a ladder 20 times and so on.  To kick start this we decided to walk 20 miles wearing breathing apparatus from Exmouth RNLI all the way to Exeter Quay and beyond, turn around and head back to home station.

We met at the station early doors at 6.15am and 10 of us drove down to Exmouth with our fire engine and a safety vehicle.  By keeping our fire engine close by throughout our walk it meant we were available if called upon. 

We managed to step off on time at 7am when, surprisingly, it was already hot and the sweat started to pour, as we wore all our fire kit including helmet and BA, together roughly weighing 30kg. 

By the time we got to Lympstone we were doing well with our collection bucket and our online donations.

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Eager and wanting to push on, we eventually got to Topsham, where we were met with more donations and Jaffa Cakes.

We received a warm welcome from a wild entourage outside Seabrook Orchards who gave us Ice creams, which were most welcome, before enthusiastically clapping us on our way.

On we marched through Countess Wear and onto Bridge Road where we had a five-minute pit stop to re adjust and hydrate. We soon steamed along the cycle path past the Double Locks and eventually onto Exeter Quay where the Danes Castle fire team were there to cheer us on.

Continuing on the West side of the Exe we got to Miller Bridge, to cross over near The Mill On The Exe pub and then back to the Quay. 

We were now well over the halfway point but it was more of a psychological breakthrough as it now felt we were on some sort of home straight. 

During this period, we were also on standby duties as another station was called out to an incident and we were covering in their absence.  

Now with light at the end of the tunnel we walked (limped) down Topsham Road after visiting the Quay for a second time. 

There was plenty of encouragement via lots of beeping of vehicle horns and people pulling in to drop donations in our bucket, which was great as we were all starting to feel very fatigued and feet throbbing in our fire boots.

As we descended into Topsham for the second time of the day we thought it would be rude not to grab a photo outside our old station and once again met with generous donations.

On our return to Clyst St George we were met by some members of Fire Control with a homemade sign and two on-call crew members from Middlemoor to welcome us back.

We raised funds for the  and between us all managed to get several blisters (who knew fire boots weren't good for walking 20 miles)!

Keep an eye out as we are not done yet.  Part of the 343/20 Challenge was to do several challenges that would equate to the above numbers. Please donate and support where possible.

We are almost there and you can donate here

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