Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

To Answer the Call: Gear Up Foundation Is a Living Tribute to Those Who Answered the Call and Perished on 9/11 along with Those Who Continue to Die Because of Their Exposures at Ground Zero

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

To Answer the Call: Gear Up Foundation Is a Living Tribute to Those Who Answered the Call and Perished on 9/11 along with Those Who Continue to Die Because of Their Exposures at Ground Zero

Article excerpt

Vincent "Vinny" Forras responded to the call on September 11th, 2001, as did so many others. The father of three-a son Michael, who continues to serve our nation as a US Marine, and daughters Brittany and Danielle-he wanted to show and lead by example on how to give back to one's community. As CEO of an international aerospace group, Phoenix Systems, he traveled the world and was away from his family quite often. However, he always made time to coach and participate in community events.

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Of September 11, 2001, Vinny remembers making the decision to stay home from work to enjoy the incredible day. The sky was as blue as it could have been and, living on a lake, he decided to go fishing. While bringing in his catch of the morning, the horror of the second plane striking the second tower appeared on the television that he had left on in the background. It was then that his emergency pager sounded and he, along with his team at South Salem, New York Fire Department were called into action. Covering FDNY firehouses first in the Bronx, then in Harlem, their heavy rescue team were deployed to Ground Zero on the morning of the 12th.

"The Twilight Zone" was his first reaction to the sights, sounds and smells of the location he once knew as the World Trade Center. The memories of picking up pieces of people, mothers, fathers, children, along with the rest of the innocent victims who were brutally murdered, still haunt him today. He remembers uncovering a woman's hand, still wearing a wedding ring, which still brings him to tears to this day.

Three days into his service, Vinny recalled exposing a possible area that could have held survivors. He was lured in slowly and, as he searched, he remembers the ground shaking and debris filling the area behind him as he shimmied down a steep decline. Trapped in the pitch dark area, he screamed, but to no avail. His heart pounding and with thoughts of being crushed, he believed that his life was over. That was until he prayed to God and, according to his account, was blessed with the vision of his three children as newborn infants, naked in his arms coupled with their "baby smell." He needed to go further into "hell" to make his way out, which he did after nearly two grueling hours.

That life changing moment allowed him to understand that God is much closer to all of us than we think. In his prayer, he made a promise to God that, should he survive, he would dedicate his life to Him and helping others. He left his multi-million-dollar-a-year business. He then accepted the mission of the foundation that he and future wife Monica Carrera (who he met one day after his service ended at Ground Zero) formed. It is called Gear Up Foundation-a living tribute to those who answered the call and perished on 9/11, along with those who continue to die because of their exposures at Ground Zero.

Among other contributions, Gear Up Foundation has donated millions of dollars of equipment to Third World nations through the support of its partners both here in America as well as in England. Vinny and Monica proudly smile as they see their efforts drawing the world closer because of the tragedy of September 11th-the ultimate tribute to the lost loved ones. A school was built, with their support, in one of the poorest areas of Ecuador. The school has already graduated more than 5,000 children in their fire safety and community service program. …

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