Photos: Highlights from the FRI 2021 Day 1 General Session

Fire-Rescue International kicks off in Charlotte, N.C., with a powerful 9/11 memorial tribute, an “State of the IAFC” statement and more


“Together Again" – Fire-Rescue International 2021 is back this week, converging on Charlotte, N.C., for several days of education and networking.

Wednesday morning marked the event's official kickoff with the General Session, featuring IAFC leaders, plus a powerful 9/11 20-year anniversary memorial tribute and panel discussion.

In case you missed it, here are some of the session highlights.


Welcome to the "Queen City"

Host city Fire Chief Reginald Johnson welcomed everyone to the “Queen City,” Charlotte, N.C.

Fire Chief Reginald Johnson opened the event.
Fire Chief Reginald Johnson opened the event.

"State of the IAFC"

Chief Ken Stuebing, IAFC acting president and chairman of the board, shared a “State of the IAFC” statement. Chief Stuebing referenced the famous quote, “May you live in interesting times,” and how the COVID-19 pandemic made this a certainty for us. He reflected on how the IAFC adapted during this difficult time, changing its business model, restructuring the association and listened to the needs of members. “We as the IAFC are strong, out front … leading through adversity because of you, our members, staff and partners,” he said. “I am extremely optimistic about the future of the IAFC.” 

Chief Ken Stuebing, IAFC acting president and chairman of the board, shared a “State of the IAFC” statement.
Chief Ken Stuebing, IAFC acting president and chairman of the board, shared a “State of the IAFC” statement.

9/11 Panel Discussion

The focal point of the General Session was the 9/11 panel: “Twenty Years Since the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks – What We Have Learned,” featuring four individuals who were instrumental in the leadership and operations during the 9/11 terrorist attacks:

  • Joseph W. Pfeifer: Senior Fellow, Program on Crisis Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School; Director of Crisis Leadership, Columbia University; Chief of Counterterrorism and Emergency Preparedness for FDNY
  • Jim Schwartz: Deputy County Manager, Arlington County, Virginia; Former Fire Chief Arlington County, Virginia
  • Sal Cassano: Former Fire Commissioner, FDNY
  • Chris Combs: National Security Executive and Special Agent in Charge, FBI.

Assistant Chief (ret.) Michael Little of the Los Angeles Fire Department moderated the panel discussion.

From left: Little, Pfeifer, Schwartz, Combs and Cassano.
From left: Little, Pfeifer, Schwartz, Combs and Cassano.

The four men are all members of the IAFC Terrorism and Homeland Security Committee. This was the first time they shared their stories together, on one stage.

Joseph W. Pfeifer, the first fire chief on scene at the World Trade Center on 9/11 (middle), and Jim Schwartz (right), the incident commander at the Pentagon on 9/11, speak with Chief Little. 
Joseph W. Pfeifer, the first fire chief on scene at the World Trade Center on 9/11 (middle), and Jim Schwartz (right), the incident commander at the Pentagon on 9/11, speak with Chief Little. 

Chief Pfeifer recalls the morning of 9/11, hearing the loud roar of jet engines and then witnessing the first plane slam into the World Trade Center. “There were hundreds of thoughts going through my mind. I had to slow my thinking down a bit. The plane was aiming for the building.”

Chief Pfeifer speaks out his initial thoughts on 9/11.
Chief Pfeifer speaks out his initial thoughts on 9/11.

Commissioner Cassano, an FDNY Operations officer on 9/11, recalled, “We knew this was going to be the worst day of our life.”

Commissioner Cassano details the Operational efforts on 9/11.
Commissioner Cassano details the Operational efforts on 9/11.

Chief Schwartz, the incident commander at the Pentagon, noted: “People talk about the ‘Fog of War’; that’s absolutely what we were dealing with.”

Chief Schwartz was the first chief on scene at the Pentagon.
Chief Schwartz was the first chief on scene at the Pentagon.

FBI Special Agent Chris Combs, another incident commander at the Pentagon on 9/11, explained, “We had been training for years for an event like this. He shared that there had been a full-scale multi-agency exercise in Fairfax, Va., the Saturday before 9/11 so they had all just been together for training. “We knew how to do this. We knew how to operate.”

FBI Special Agent Chris Combs was on scene at the Pentagon shortly after the attack.
FBI Special Agent Chris Combs was on scene at the Pentagon shortly after the attack.

9/11 Memorial Ceremony

Following the 9/11 panel discussion, FDNY Lt. (ret.) Joe Minogue, who now serves as the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation liaison to the FDNY, led a memorial ceremony to 9/11. Minogue underscored that “When a department is in need, the foundation is there for you, your members and the families who have lost a loved one.” He then asked all in attendance to stand for the beginning of the ceremony.

FDNY Lt. (ret.) Joe Minogue commenced the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony.
FDNY Lt. (ret.) Joe Minogue commenced the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony.
The helmet reads "343" to signify the number of FDNY firefighters who died in the line of duty on 9/11.
The helmet reads "343" to signify the number of FDNY firefighters who died in the line of duty on 9/11.
The Charlotte (N.C.) Pipes and Drums played Amazing Grace.
The Charlotte (N.C.) Pipes and Drums played Amazing Grace.
Minogue led a moment of silence to remember the lives lost in Arlington, Va., New York City and Shanksville, Pa.
Minogue led a moment of silence to remember the lives lost in Arlington, Va., New York City and Shanksville, Pa.
The ringing of the bell for the lost.
The ringing of the bell for the lost.
Minogue played “Taps” to conclude the ceremony.
Minogue played “Taps” to conclude the ceremony.

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