Last week at our Rotary meeting at The Harvard Club, we were honored to have Retired Colonel Will G. Merrill, Jr., U.S. Army speak with us about his upcoming book on "The Attack on New York City on 9/11 and the First Battle in the War Against Terror".His book will focus on the bravery and heroism in New York. Here is Will with his lovely wife Barbara who he met while studying at West Point.
As we spoke about his research for the book, he said 'it all started at a flea market'- I loved Will's story and thought about the power of networking-connections and how one incident and connection leads to another–
See Will's story below-and I am looking forward to reading his book—
After considerable research, but few interviews, while starting to write a book on 9/11 (Ordinary People: Extraordinary Heroes)my wife and I were in New York City. She met retired “fireman Jack” Fortmeyer who was selling old bottles at a flea market in Brooklyn. She thought I might be interested in meeting him and introduced us. Thinking it might be good background material for my book, I asked him if he would be willing to be interviewed.
He agreed and we exchanged phone numbers. A few days later he invited me to attend a Brooklyn retired fire fighter breakfast. When we arrived, he introduced me to the President who invited me to say a few words about the book I was writing.
After I finished, a fire fighter suggested I interview Bob Beckwith, the man pictured with President Bush at Ground Zero. Another person suggested I interview Al Fuentes, a severely injured fire fighter who was buried alive. I met and interviewed Al Fuentes at Central Park. Jack Fortmeyer also introduced me to several other fire fighters, both active and retired, who I interviewed.
I interviewed Bob Beckwith who introduced me to Jimmy Boyle, former president of the fire fighter union, whose son was killed on 9/11. I interviewed Jimmy and he introduced me to Chief of Department, FDNY, Sal Cassano. He also invited me to a foundation fund raiser where I met Tim Brown, who arranged an interview with Mayor Giuliani. Jimmy also arranged an appointment for me with Congressman Peter King, Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, who wrote the introduction to my book. I interviewed Chief Cassano and he introduced me to Mickey Kross, Jay Jonas, who had been trapped in what remained of one of the Twin Towers, and others.
I mentioned to a friend that I needed material on the Port Authority Police Department. He knew a retired PAPD retiree, who put me in touch with the family’s liaison representative. She put me in touch with two former PAPD Chiefs of Department and a current Deputy Chief of Police. She also put me in touch with several family members of PAPD officers killed on 9/11.
When I told Jimmy Boyle that I didn’t have much contact with NYPD officers, he suggested I contact the former Police Commissioner, Bernard Kerik. I wrote him a letter and he answered immediately and had his former Chief of Staff contact me. The Chief of Staff, John Picciano, met me and I interviewed him. He contacted the former Deputy Chief of Police, Sal Carcaterra and the Chief of Police’s assistant, Ralph Cefarello, both of whom I interviewed. My son, in Iraq, introduced me to a retired Police Chaplain who was involved with supporting service men stationed in Iraq. He introduced me to another police officer and a current NYPD Chaplain, both of whom I interviewed.
All told, I have interviewed about sixty fire fighters, police officers and civilians for my book. Their inspirational stories of danger and courage have been invaluable to the development of the book.