Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
A charitable group planning to honor the fallen heroes of both Pearl Harbor and 9/11 has run into the fury of some alleged New York City firefighters who are outraged that the organization helps firefighters abroad, rather than at home.
Vincent Forras is founder of the Gear Up Foundation, which uses private funds to distribute fire equipment and training to firefighters in developing countries around the world as a way of “bringing our world together because of the attacks on 9/11, rather than tearing us apart as the terrorists had dreamed.”
Yet now, Forras told WND, he has received death threats and his family been subject to sexual harassment from rogue FDNY firefighters who call him a fraud and insist helping fire departments elsewhere in the name of Sept. 11 is a “scam.”
“It has turned into a vicious, vicious firestorm of intimidation,” Forras said. “I’ve received death threats, including comments about ‘putting bullets in my head,’ beating me up, and horrible sexual comments about my wife and daughters.
“Apparently, these guys don’t like the idea that we’re pledging support to causes other than the FDNY,” Forras continued, “because supposedly we’re infringing on their ability to raise money in the name of 9/11.”
Forras told WND his organization has reported to FDNY the threatening remarks, most of which are on Facebook sites used and maintained by firefighters, both active and retired.
Sample comments obtained by WND from Facebook screenshots reveal critics wishing Forras be beaten, tied up, lashed, “tarred and feathered in front of the union hall,” spat upon and hanged by his genitals, among other colorful phrases.
“I enjoy getting ugly and violent with this a–hole and will continue to do so until he is fully exposed,” decried an outspoken critic using the name Alan Jacoby. “He uses 9/11 to solicit donations so he can buy used fire equipment at discounted prices and donate it to 3rd world countries. This does nothing to benefit 9/11 victims families and responders.”
Forras claims to have been a volunteer firefighter who himself was trapped for hours in the rubble of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks – a claim his detractors dispute – and tells WND he believes some in the FDNY simply believe they should have a “monopoly” on money raised in memory of 9/11.
“It’s sour grapes over our organization helping firefighters around the world with equipment and training, but we do it in tribute to those who died in 9/11,” said Forras. “It really irks me that these guys think it’s their sole event, that we have no right to claim 9/11 as well.”
According to Forras, “A small group has managed to corrupt the FDNY, and their conduct is deplorable. I call on FDNY to immediately investigate who is responsible and to bring them to justice.”
The controversy comes at a particularly difficult time as Gear Up is preparing – with the assistance of some other FDNY firefighters – for a remarkable event that begins at sunrise on Sept. 11, 2012, at Ground Zero in New York City and concludes at sunset upon the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu the same day. The “Sunrise & Sunset Memorial” is designed to commemorate those “who served our nation on the two dates that live in infamy.”
Ironically, Forras told WND, the event was originally going to be a fundraiser for a trio of projects designed to help first responders in New York City, rather than abroad, but in the wake of efforts to undermine the event, it has been made free of charge.
“The event means more than any amount of money we could bring in,” Forras said.