The Next Ground Zero: "We Are Ready"

Tommy Neiman

Tommy Neiman

In 2001 Islamic radicals struck America in New York City and Washington D.C. 3,000 people died.

It’s difficult to understand why the terrorists flew airplanes filled with people into buildings. The meaning of the word “radical is “root.”  Those Islamic men had returned to their spiritual roots in both their minds and their bodies. They believed in their cause, their war,  and they were willing to die for it.

The foundation of the Twin Towers in New York City became known as “Ground Zero.”  This term was coined in 1946.  The dictionary states the meaning as, “the point on the earth’s surface directly above, below, or at which an explosion (especially a nuclear explosion) occurs.”

Americans were devastated.  Islam claimed a victory.

Though it has been 15 years since 9/11, Americans continue to call such acts “terrorism,” whereas Islamic radicals call them “jihad,” or acts of war.  This war is ongoing—even on American soil.

When a nation or a people go to war, all resources are put into play.  And plans that were successful before will be utilized again.

Is America ready?  Is your community prepared?

Tommy Neiman, Florida State Fire Fighter of the Year (2003) and St. Lucie County Fire Fighter of the Year (1993), has seen the unimaginable horror of Ground Zero shortly after 9/11.  As a chaplain, Neiman was part of a memorial service which distributed urns filled with concrete dust from the center shaft of both the North and South Twin Towers to families yet in shock—their loved ones suddenly gone.

Tommy Neiman has also witnessed the recent preparations of fire fighters.  No longer do these public servants just put out house fires—they are trained and continue to be trained in the latest rescue skills for a variety of attacks and even for another Ground Zero.

Fire fighters carry dosimeters (devices that measure exposure to ionizing radiation) and other radiological monitoring equipment to measure nuclear radiation.  Neiman states, “Each year fire fighters and emergency rescue receive a refresher course on the use of this special type of equipment, keeping them up-to-date.  Fire fighters and emergency rescue have also been prepared for a situation with mass casualties and evacuation procedures.

Communication has been bettered.  The government has upgraded fire fighter/emergency rescue radios with more frequencies; a specific frequency can now be used just for a single catastrophic event.

Hazardous material (HAZMAT) crews have been well trained. Smoke from chemical fires can be a major problem.  Hazardous chemicals and particles in the smoke can cause death. Chemical suits are ready and able to be worn.

Fire fighters are trained for special rescue situations—in confined spaces, for example, in underground piping. 

At the stations, there are now heavier bay doors in place and a tighter watch on vehicles at a rescue scene.  A fire truck or ambulance, if stolen, could be packed with explosives and normally would receive good access to many facilities.

In St. Lucie County, a newly formed SWAT team of paramedics has been cross-trained to work with law enforcement on special law enforcement missions.

Tommy Neiman adds, “There is an overall awareness, an acceptance of this new reality and heightened preparedness among fire fighters and emergency rescue to save lives and protect property.”

Neiman believes that the level of stress is now higher among fire fighters and emergency rescue.  Right after the Boston Marathon bombing occurred, he thought, ‘Will this happen here on my shift?’  He admits that it very well could, and continued “We will respond to it. We are 100% ready and have stayed on the cutting edge of what’s out there globally, for handling a terrorism incident.”

When asked, “How can the public be ready?” Neiman answers, “One citizen alone can make a difference.  If you see something, report it.  We must remain proactive and observant.  That one person who alerts authorities could possibly stop a terrorist attack from happening or lessen the blow.”

As a fire fighter chaplain, Tommy Neiman remembers that after 9/11 churches were full.  Americans were scared.  They had come to realize that death is real, and the next day is not promised.  He affirms, “It is important to be ready spiritually.”

Tommy Neiman is the author of Sirens of the Cross, and for 18 years has been the baseball chaplain for both the New York Mets (spring training) and the St. Lucie Mets.  A native of Fort Pierce, he travels the country speaking about his life as a fire fighter—offering hope and encouragement where needed.  Tommy Neiman currently serves in the Malabar and Okeechobee Fire/Emergency Rescue Departments and spent 30 years with the St. Lucie County Fire Department as a Lieutenant. Contact Tommy Neiman at or (772) 216-7426.

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