By Al Errington
On September 11, 2001 the New York Fire Fighters lost 343 of their comrades, one of every 33 firefighters. They had no time to grieve, and their major support group, the other firefighters, were all suffering. They had to continue doing their job short handed because fires and other emergencies happen continually. They also had weeks of futile rescue efforts in a highly dangerous environment followed by months of emotionally and physically draining site cleanup at Ground Zero. They had to continue doing their job because they were the only ones who could do it, and, fire fighting is not what they do, it is what they are. It is an unimaginable situation.
As some of you may know in early September, 2002 we were hosts to 12 New York Fire Fighters as part of a cooperative project called the New York Heroes Canadian Adventure Vacation. This project was put together and funded by ourselves, and a number of other Canadian businesses and organizations. The vacation took place in various locations in the Algoma Country region of Northern Ontario Canada. The whole trip was a resounding success. The 12 New York Fire Fighters who visited us were some of the finest men we have ever been privileged to meet and this vacation made a big difference to them and to the many people they met throughout their stay in Northern Ontario.
The completely free vacation, for the 12 fire fighters, included airfare from New York to Sault Ste Marie Ontario Canada which was donated by Air Canada and a group of local sponsors. All accommodations and meals at the beginning and end of their stay were donated, and the Algoma Central Railway donated their private luxury car for transportation to our resort. We provided our suites on the American Plan Package with full guiding services and full use of all of our facilities for fishing and wildlife viewing. Hawk Air flew them out by floatplane. Elite Limousine transported them to the various locations and events throughout Algoma and Naturally Superior Adventures treated them to an interpretive trip along Lake Superior's northeastern coast including a paddle in a voyageur canoe. The communities which they passed through hosted them enthusiastically, especially Hawk Junction, Goulais and Batchawana Bay.
They were flown by Air Canada from New York through Toronto to Sault Ste Marie Ontario Canada Airport on August 31. Elite Limousine picked them up and brought them to the Water Tower Inn where they spent their first night. There had massages courtesy of the massage therapists at the Tropical Zoo Spa in the Water Tower Inn. In the evening Elite Limousine brought them to Buttermilk Alpine Village who provided them with dinner with some of the local fire fighters. The Goulais River Shovel Band, a very unique and talented group of musicians, provided the entertainment. At the end of the evening Elite Limousine returned them to the Water Tower Inn.
The next morning Elite Limousine took the 12 firefighters and police officers to the Algoma Central Railway where they embarked on the Algoma Central Railway's private luxury rail car for an all day trip into the Canadian wilderness. As they left Sault Ste Marie their steward served them a sumptuous breakfast in their private car's dining room after which they retired to the comfort of their lounge for the relaxing trip into Algoma Country. About 3 hours north of Sault Ste Marie they stopped for about 2 hours in Agawa Canyon to enjoy the beautiful scenery and unique geography for which it is famous. Their steward served them Fillet Mignon for lunch as they left Agawa Canyon.
Late in the afternoon they reached us at Lake Wabatongushi, a 10,000-acre lake that is inside the southwest corner of the Chapleau Game Preserve. We met them at the train and brought them by pontoon boat over to our secluded Wilderness Island Resort. They stayed 4 nights with us and were provided with all their meals and each pair of them were guided and had the use of an 18' cedar boat with 9.9 hp 4-stroke motor, fish finder and trolling motor to relax and enjoy fishing for Walleye and Northern Pike, wildlife viewing and the beauty and peace of secluded natural surroundings. Besides fishing we are also well known for Moose and Bear watching and the abundant population of Loons, Bald Eagles and many other birds and animals native to the boreal forests.
When they left our resort, Hawk Air flew them by floatplane to Hawk Junction in their classic DeHavilland Otter float planes. Naturally Superior Adventures met the 12 fire fighters at the Hawk Air Float Plane Base and took them on an all day exploration of Lake Superior's northern coast including a guided Voyageur Canoe trip and a visit to the ancient native pictographs at Agawa Bay. Lake Shore Resort on Lake Superior's beautiful Batchawana Bay provided their last night's accommodation about 1 hour north of Sault Ste. Marie. Lake Shore Resort's Salzburgerhof Restaurant will provide them with some of their well-known German cuisine for their dinner and breakfast. Local firefighters, especially the Batchawana Volunteers, were out to help host them on their last night in Canada.
The next morning, September 6, Elite Limousine brought them back to the Sault Ste Marie airport where they boarded Air Canada's flight back through Toronto to New York. We organized, distributed information and selected the recipients through a website we developed, www.WeLoveNewYorkers.com.
This vacation was all about giving a few of the many New York Fire Fighters some time and space to deal with some of the emotional repercussions of the past year. It developed into so much more. First, because the 12 firefighters who visited us were so incredible, their enthusiasm, humour, pride, humility, and very humanness in spite of the past year, left their mark on every person they met. And also because of the overwhelming hospitality of everyone they met on their trip. The Northern Ontario communities' compassion and respect for these men filled them with an energy and enthusiasm, which they will sorely need in these emotionally tumultuous times. The good will and energy they were given will be passed on to their needy comrades and families.
In the daily running of our businesses we sometimes forget the value of our business to our guests for emotional and psychological health. These 12 fire fighters desperately needed the rest, relaxation and healing environment our business provided. All of our guests come to us for this. Their vacation is when they recharge from the stresses of work and life in a very busy culture. Yes, they fish, they hunt, they canoe, they look at wildlife, but, they also heal.
As we gather and process them we will be putting photos and other information about their trip on the www.WeLoveNewYorkers.com website which we used as an organizational focal point for the New York Heroes Canadian Adventure Vacation project. We are deeply grateful to all of the direct and indirect sponsors and contributors to this event, a number of them were NOTO members.
Best Wishes to All
Al & Doris Errington
Errington's Wilderness Island Resort
Editor's Note: links were not provided to www.welovenewyorkers.com because the site no longer exists.
This article was taken from pages 17 & 18 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, Winter 2003 Issue