New York Firefighters Deliver Christmas Cheer

They traveled some 1,500 miles.  Head Start kids greeted the elves with the Brooklyn accents.

"Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!," shouted the firefighters, wearing Santa's helper hats.

Seven Penske trucks, all filled with Christmas joy from New York City arrived in Jackson County Wednesday morning.

"Nine eleven happened to us. People haven't forgotten that. Hurricane Katrina happened down here. And we just wanted to show support to the people down here. You're not forgotten. People are still here to help you," says New York firefighter Tom O'Conner.

"We're going to put it all along the hall in here. But leave room to walk," one of the volunteers says, directing the unloading crew.

A gift box brigade soon forms to unload the goodies.

"We maybe get all 23 of us and just line up and pass it down," says one New Yorker.

The New York visitors got a boost from their South Mississippi brothers. Helping hands from Pascagoula, Moss Point and Jackson County firefighters all pitch in. As they unloaded the toys, John Atwell gave children high fives.

"All right team! Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!," shouts the Brooklyn visitor.

This generosity is from the heart of those who know how to give and receive.

"We understand that pain and grief have no boundaries. Nor does the New York City Fire Department when it comes to helping out. We don't have any boundaries. We come out and we try to do the right things and say thank you for the things people have done for us," Atwell explains.

Diane Payne is Executive Director of the Jackson County Civic Action group. She was all smiles when the New York group arrived with so many donations.

"This time of year, even if Katrina had not hit, we have always had tremendous need. And there are a lot of families in need across the coast still," she says.

The joy of giving is evident among the visiting New Yorkers, who laugh often and take special pleasure in ribbing one another.

Firefighters must be tough to endure their daily duties to be sure, but there's a tender heart inside.

"We're basically kids at heart. So, to help out children is just a natural fit, you know," says O'Conner.