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Question: What is the role you now have with Garin?

Guillermo Rios: My work and my role with the 911 FUND is to facilitate all kinds of assistance to help needy firefighters expand their knowledge so they'll be better equipped to handle whatever situation arises, and to train them to provide better service to the community they serve voluntarily.

Question: What were you doing before?

Guillermo Rios: I am a police captain, a helicopter pilot and a police firefighter.

Question: I heard from Stephan that you went to New York to help with 9/11. Can you tell me that story?

Guillermo Rios: It would be a pleasure. That day I was awakened and told that an airplane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. I'm a helicopter pilot, so I understand aviation, but the event seemed unlikely to me. I was watching TV when the second plane hit the second tower. It was a disaster. I believe, in life, we have just one opportunity; either you choose to sit and watch what will happen or you pick-up your equipment and be part of something. So I decided to be part of something. This event impacted the world in a historical way forever. I wanted to help and I knew I had to do a lot to accomplish it. At that time, my financial status was not good. I had to borrow money and wait to get my regular pay to plan the trip. I could not fly directly to New York, so I had to stop in Miami, then Washington and finally New York. I remember the last plane was very small, six people. I arrived in New York at night and I didn't know anyone. I was low in cash, so I decided to wait until the next morning to see what could be done. The next morning, I started talking to some police officers. I asked them how can I help, and they aked me what equipment I had. I told them I didn't have any equipment, just my hands. They more or less told me how to get to Ground Zero. I got close, but couldn't get in until I identified myself as a police officer and showed my identification. I was able to speak with a Puerto Rican police officer with whom I could express myself better. Then, a Cuban police officer approached us. I explained how I'd come from Argentina and all I went through to get here to help in any way I could. They asked me what kind of equipment I had, and I told them I had none, nothing. Just my hands. I stayed with them. They introduced me to some people, and I worked on helping to clear some buildings. I returned the next day and they recognized me and let me go through. The same people were there. We worked together day after day. I was staying at a Christian shelter. I had a very small room with only a small bed and a table where I'd take a bath then go back to work, day after day. Some police officers then asked me if I'd like to go on patrol with them around the city in New York. So I decided to stay with them at the 6th Precinct. I patrolled with them. I'm also a police officer. Different cities have different problems. It was hard.

Question: Based on that experience, how did it change you in what you do as a firefighter in Argentina?

Guillermo Rios: Oh, totally. It changed me totally. If I thought of helping after all this happened, now I know I have to continue helping in all I can without expecting something in return. I never thought of going to New York to help and then return as a hero. No, no. I never thought of going to New York and coming back with recognition. Not even after being penalized at my job for going over the days allowed for travelling. So I'll never ask for recognition. I didn't look for it and I didn't want it. What happened is very special. Firefighters are very special. I carry it in my heart. It's something very special. Firefighters and police are very special people. They give everything. The best thing a person has is not his money, it's his life. And these are people who will give their lives for nothing. It's a great sacrifice, so, therefore, we cannot neglect them. We have to protect them. And this is what the 911 Foundation is doing, to protect all those who are prepared to give everything for nothing in return; those who go to put out a fire with nothing, no boots, no coat, no helmet; with only one fire hose or no fire hose, and a broken down fire truck. So we have to help these firefighters. The ones that have more, give to the ones that have less. This way we can accomplish many things. I say this from my heart.

Question: What is our future here in Argentina?

Guillermo Rios: I think it is magnificent. It could be great. I used to say it's like a Cinderella story. Those that had nothing, and now, like Garin, have it all, or practically, almost all. I always tell them it's the Cinderella story. They had nothing, no helmets, no equipment, no uniforms. Nevertheless, today they even have a ladder truck, and good equipment. They are doing very well. So then, there could be a lot of Cinderella's here in Argentina. The 911 FUND is doing a lot. It's not only what they have given, but the renewing of our minds; the changing of our mentality. That is very important because, for example, I was talking to a group of mountain rescuers who are here today for training. They wanted to come, why are they here? The 911 FUND offered them the training. So now the concept of helping multiplies; it multiplies our will to help; this concept of multiplication is now in our minds. It's a concept that develops an awareness of what is true solidarity. That is, to give it all, expecting nothing in return. Then with time everything balances out. God is great and He works in mysterious and wonderful ways. My friends in Garin were able to get in touch with Stephan and they asked me as a police officer, not a firefighter, to help them to escort him. So I went to the airport and escorted him to Garin. We were able to talk a great deal. One of the first things he asked was about our goals and expectations. Something very important that opened everyone's minds then happened. It wasn't just that he changed our way of thinking. He opened our eyes. We were always focusing on small things; we had tunnel vision. We were not able to see other things. That's what he did, and we're now able to see many things. He opened our eyes and gave us a vision. We said that we might not get any donations, but he stimulated our minds and that was a lot for us. With his presence, talking, exchanging ideas, giving us comments, watching him; I am always watching him. The way he interacts with people in different situations. Just watching him get into our minds and increase our awareness. He showed us how to deal with industry, government and others. Help doesn't have to come from the US. It could come from anywhere; a nearby fire house, a province or another city. That's what has made us change. It brought us greater solidarity. That's our driving force -- the 911 Foundation and his personal attitude. And that was on the first visit. He motivated our minds and opened our eyes. These were things that we could not see. The 911 Foundation then gave us fire trucks, helmets, uniforms, equipment and training. It has been spectacular, and he never asked for anything in return. Just giving us advice; that was our first step and I think it was the biggest.

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