A volunteer firefighter and 9/11 hero is taking a really lengthy hike for a really worthy trigger.
Rob Weisberg, of Nesconset, New York, is setting off to stroll the Appalachian Path on March 11, 2023, he advised Fox Information Digital in an interview.
The two,200-mile stretch of path from Georgia to Maine will take Weisberg some six months to finish, he stated.
He plans to complete the trek on Sept. 11, 2023.
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Weisberg has been a volunteer firefighter with the Commack Fireplace Division in New York for 29 years.
He is taking the journey not solely to test off an merchandise on his bucket checklist, however to offer again to others.
Weisberg thought it might be a “nice concept” to show the journey right into a fundraiser for New York-based nonprofit Paws of Battle, he stated.
That group helps rescue animals discovered abroad by deployed navy personnel and brings them to U.S., and in addition supplies service canine coaching for troopers and first responders.
Weisberg’s personal canine, Chip, has another evaluation with Paws of Battle earlier than he qualifies as a service canine to proceed to assist Weisberg handle his PTSD, Weisberg famous.
A hero of 9/11
On Sept. 11, 2001, Weisberg instantly jumped into motion following the terrorist assaults on that horrible day. Weisberg was working as an accountant in Decrease Manhattan when the primary aircraft struck the North Tower, throughout the road from his workplace, he stated.
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The volunteer firefighter instinctively ran to the closest firehouse, which was FDNY Ten Home, and supplied his assist.
Solely the captain of the firehouse was contained in the quarters on the time — and he accepted Weisberg’s supply to offer support to civilians caught within the assault, Weisberg stated.
“I mainly put collectively one of many first triage areas for the incident,” he added.
Weisberg’s accountability within the second, as he put it plainly, was to “cope with it.”
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“There have been individuals complaining about bumps and bruises, however I used to be additionally coping with a lady who obtained caught in a fireball,” he stated. “And that was horrible.”
Weisberg remembered working up and down the firehouse’s a number of flights of stairs to retrieve pillows and blankets for wounded survivors who have been there, together with tending to their wants with restricted sources.
“My background at the moment was the primary support coaching I obtained within the Boy Scouts,” he stated, noting he had made the rank of Eagle Scout. “I positively had my arms full.”
Weisberg helped a person from China who suffered a damaged pelvis, he stated, noting that the 2 males share a “very particular relationship” at present.
As soon as the second aircraft hit the South Tower, it turned obvious the nation was beneath assault, Weisberg stated.
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He then made brave strikes to take care of and evacuate each particular person from Ten Home – which had crammed with darkish, black smoke.
“It took me a very long time to appreciate it wasn’t my fault. We did the very best we may.”
“Within the firehouse, I bear in mind getting blown off my toes by the wind,” he stated. “I went about six toes earlier than I hit a cinder block wall.”
He added, “You couldn’t see, every little thing was black, you’re holding your breath. We have been actually suffocating.”
He continued, “We have been initially in survival mode and as soon as we realized we have been nonetheless alive, then we had to enter rescue mode.”
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Out of practically 40 individuals within the firehouse that Weisberg tended to, he and different Ten Home helpers have been capable of save all however one.
“And that has been very exhausting for me to cope with as a result of I felt accountable,” he stated. “It took me a very long time to appreciate it wasn’t my fault. We did the very best we may.”
Amid the second tower collapse, as extra soot and dirt crammed the air, Weisberg stated he inspired himself to “simply preserve working till I drop.”
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He added, “Anyone who says they weren’t scared that day is mendacity.”
He additionally stated, “The luck that we had that day, to nonetheless be round to maintain working, was unbelievable.”
After escaping from the firehouse, Weisberg was ordered to evacuate others from buildings within the space, ushering them onto buses from Battery Park out of the town, he defined.
Influence of surviving a terrorist assault
Weisberg’s response to 9/11 pushed him to earn his EMT certification and volunteer with Commack Ambulance Corp for seven years.
His experiences on 9/11 additionally left him with respiratory points and gastroesophageal reflux illness (GERD) in addition to PTSD, he stated.
Weisberg has had extreme reactions to loud noises, in addition to nightmares and bother sleeping, for greater than 20 years, he additionally stated.
The primary responder stated he tried a number of totally different therapies; whereas they helped, they weren’t “fairly sufficient.”
“I used to be on the level the place I assumed that is pretty much as good because it will get … and for years handled it,” he stated.
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“I can’t let you know what number of instances I’ve stated [to my kids], ‘I want you knew me earlier than,’” he added. “There’s positively a line in my life earlier than and after [9/11].”
“I saved my mouth shut for 20 years and I believe I obtained to the purpose the place I used to be drained.”
Weisberg discovered that working with animals helped him greater than the rest.
This included horse remedy, which he credit for saving his life, and coaching his service canine.
Chip, a treeing walker coonhound, is the Weisberg household’s fourth rescue canine, and he is wrapping up coaching with Paws of Battle to change into Weisberg’s service animal.
That group coated all prices related to coaching Chip, as Weisberg is a primary responder — which the firefighter says has been “phenomenal.”
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Chip “likes to work” and has a “put me in, Coach” perspective when he sees his service canine vest, stated Weisberg.
Being a part of a neighborhood of like-minded people is what has been most beneficial to Weisberg, he notes.
“It’s not simply the coaching and [Chip] studying my bodily cues. It’s being round different individuals who ‘get it,’” he stated.
“I say to them, I’m having a foul day — they perceive.”
‘It’s OK to not be OK’
Weisberg hopes his hike starting quickly additionally brings consciousness to first responder and veteran suicide, which regularly goes “hand in hand” with PTSD.
Weisberg selected “Sleepwalker” since he’s felt as if he’s been strolling in his sleep for years attributable to PTSD.
He admitted that there have been instances previously the place he was “shut” to committing suicide.
He stated he’d change into “actually good” at hiding his personal battle with psychological well being, he stated.
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For others who may additionally be struggling, Weisberg stated it’s essential to know that there are sources out there to entry assist, and that it’s “OK to not be OK.”
He added, “I saved my mouth shut for 20 years and I believe I obtained to the purpose the place I used to be drained. I’m uninterested in combating it.”
As a busy husband and father, an assistant Boy Scout grasp and a volunteer at Pal-O-Mine equine remedy, Weisberg stated stepping away from all of it to embark on his journey will likely be “extraordinarily exhausting.”
He plans to take the journey “day-to-day,” stopping each seven to 10 days in close by cities to resupply the requirements he’ll keep it up his again.
“I do know there have been different households which might be entire [because of me].”
He’s “very snug” being within the woods, he famous, and has been bodily coaching for the trek and studying survival sources.
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Most individuals who stroll the Appalachian Path select a brand new title to make use of on the journey, he stated.
Weisberg selected “Sleepwalker,” since he’s felt as if he’s been strolling in his sleep for years attributable to PTSD.
Weisberg has “a whole lot of unresolved points” and anger from 9/11, he stated, which he hopes to launch throughout his stroll.
“[PTSD sufferers] get offended very simply as a result of there’s a whole lot of stuff close to the floor,” he continued. He stated he hopes he “can form of flip the flame down.”
He additionally stated, “After I take into consideration 20 years of well being points, drugs and nightmares, I do know what I used to be capable of accomplish that day. I do know there have been different households which might be entire [because of me] … For that motive, I might do it once more.”
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Weisberg will submit updates from his path journey on his Fb web page (fb.com/RobWeisbergAppalachianTrailHike).
Donations could be made via Paws of struggle at pawsofwar.org.