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Interview With Mark Akahoshi, Steve Ruda

Aired November 17, 2001 - 08:08   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Los Angeles City firefighters have traveled to New York to donate $2.5 million to the families of their comrades who were killed in the World Trade Center attack. One hundred L.A. firefighters will present the check in just about an hour from now.

Two representatives from the fire department, Steve Ruda and Captain Mark Akahoshi, join us live now from New York. Good morning, gentlemen.


PHILLIPS: Captain, I have to ask you first, I know what a tight connection that the firefighter culture is and -- or firefighters have. How did September 11 not only -- we know how it affected firefighters in New York, but what about Los Angeles? How did your men and women respond and how did it affect your morale?

STEVE RUDA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: Well, our morale certainly was out to the brothers here in New York City and also we had to plan for possible terrorism attacks in our own city of Los Angeles. We are the second largest city in the United States, so we were on major tactical alert. But within 12 hours, we were able to send an urban search and rescue team, over 60 members from the Los Angeles team to New York and they were here the next morning.

PHILLIPS: Actually, that was Steve Ruda that we just to and I know the captain was answering the question, too. Captain, go ahead.

AKAHOSHI: Oh, I'm sorry.

PHILLIPS: That's OK. We had a little technical problem there. We're all right. It's great to have both of you responding. Go ahead, Captain.

AKAHOSHI: Which one?

PHILLIPS: That -- Captain Akahoshi.

RUDA: Akahoshi.

PHILLIPS: Yes, yes. Let's talk about the affect that this has had on firefighters, you know, all around the country, specifically with the L.A. City. AKAHOSHI: Yes, well, when it happened we felt the pain from the members of New York. And we wanted to do something. We needed to stay in Los Angeles to protect the citizens of Los Angeles, but what we thought was from the heart what can we do for these people and for the firefighters that were lost? So we started to do fund-raising. We started selling T-shirts and passing around a turnout boot to collect money for the widows and children fund for New York.

We also sold bracelets. Firefighters, they came up with the ideas of making these POW style bracelets that, in memory of the fallen heroes of New York.

PHILLIPS: Wow. And Captain Ruda, what was the first thing that New York firefighters and widows came up and said to you when they found out you were going to be giving them this check?

RUDA: Well, this morning at 9:30, we go to Fire Station 40, where we will make the presentation. I'm sure that their hearts will be with ours joined. But the bracelets that we brought throughout southern California, this red bracelet, over a million dollars was raised by L.A. City firefighters. It was the idea of Ray Hoffman (ph) and Kevin Lowe (ph) and over a million dollars was raised just by this kind of Vietnam war memorial bracelet that Angelinos and all of southern California purchased, and even children all over, the schoolchildren were wearing these bracelets, as well.

So with the work or with the firefighters, we had T-shirts that were made that are available on the Web site that you can see that we have. Firefighters, their families, their kids were able to put these beautiful shirts together. And it has the firefighters' prayer on that with a famous flag raising at the World Trade Center. Through the efforts of a lot of people, these wonderful things were made and over $2.2 million will be presented today at a 9:30 presentation.

PHILLIPS: Wow. Captain Ruda, tell us about that firefighters' prayer. What's the history behind that? Is that something that is used on a regular basis or -- give me a little history behind that.

RUDA: Well, basically it is a prayer to our mighty god to say whenever duty we're called, wherever it may be, give us the strength that we need to save someone's life, whether it be children or some older person. Help us to be alert and to hear the weakest shout and quickly and effectively to put the fire out. I want to give my full, my calling, and to give the best in me, to guard my every neighbor and protect property. And if according to your will, I have to lose my life, please bless with your protecting hand my children and my wife.

I think it's tremendously relevant in the sacrifices that the firefighters were made. And we met a lot of great people here. Liz Goodman, an independent producer, brought us to New York and was able to help us to bring this message of love and peace and community from the citizens of Los Angeles. And that's not only firefighters, but the citizens of Los Angeles have joined us together and we represent them, as well, bringing this message of love and comfort to our brothers and sisters in New York, as well as the widows and the orphans that are here. And we wanted to bring this money back right away. Obviously the memorial had been postponed, but firefighters from Los Angeles, over 100, are here. They came anyway, even though it was postponed, to bring our love and our concern and also the check, because we wanted the widows and the orphans to have this money before the holiday season hit.

PHILLIPS: Wow. Captain Mark Akahoshi, taking what Captain Ruda just said, listening to that, that firefighters' prayer and just that commitment to duty and honor and love, and what, you know, the firefighters are doing to help those in New York, how is this sort of changed daily life with the men and women you specifically command there in L.A. City? Do you see a difference in relationship or attitude since all of this has happened?

AKAHOSHI: It's made our company and our fire department bond together. We work, the camaraderie has built up. We work real well as a team. We sense what has happened in New York has brought us a lot closer to protect the citizens of L.A. and prevent anything like this from happening in Los Angeles, that we need to support each other. And that, it really has developed into that teamwork concept.

PHILLIPS: Well, it's an incredible effort. Now, I know you two are going to be very busy socializing with the folks there, right, Captain Ruda? What's ahead for the weekend?

RUDA: Well, we have a busy weekend planned. We have Lieutenant Nagle's (ph) funeral this morning at 11 o'clock. Then we have an opportunity to meet at ground zero. A lot of the firefighters are from Fire Station 10 in Los Angeles, who will meet with the firefighters from 1010 here -- it was across the street from the World Trade Center -- to bring messages of support and love for them.

Tomorrow morning we invite everyone to join us at mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral at 10:15, where we will join in the celebration of mass at St. Patrick's and then an opportunity to meet with some schoolchildren on Monday morning. The schoolchildren were able to take care of our urban search and rescue firefighters and they did the laundry for our firefighters. And so one of the firefighters, Reg Denney (ph), has asked us to go back to a school in New Jersey to meet with these kids and to let them know that they can make a difference and they made a difference in his life and they make a difference in our life.

So as firefighters, they call us heroes, but our true heroes are those people who are every day citizens who do the unusual job of getting by and contributing to the welfare of others.

PHILLIPS: And we feel that you're all heroes.

Captain Ruda and Captain Akahoshi, both, thank you so much for just sharing the special gesture that you guys are doing and being with us this morning.

AKAHOSHI: Thank you.

RUDA: Thanks very much.




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