The next generation visits from Berlin
On July 14, 2014, ten eager teenagers arrived at LAX from Berlin, Germany. They were here to immerse themselves into American culture and the homes of Los Angeles City Fire families. These boys and girls, the “Next Generation,” were all children of Berlin Fire Department members. The youthful representatives of the Berliner Feuerwehr, were under the watchful guidance of Captain Frank Kante and Captain Julika Wrenger of the Berlin FD.
After a one day rest period in Los Angeles, they were treated to a pancake breakfast put on by the LAFD Historical Society at the fire museum in Hollywood. There they were greeted by the museum staffers: Frank Borden, Don Dodd, Thomas Brennan, James Finn and Walt Jaeger. These retired members were absolutely spot-on with the breakfast preparation and a welcoming orientation for the group.
Councilmember Tom LaBonge was also in attendance to welcome the children, and to welcome the eight families that volunteered to host the Germans in their California homes. Chaplain George Negrete was also there to offer his support and to greet each one of the visitors. The LAFD was represented by Captain Jaime Moore from the PIO’s office. Accompanying him was LAFD Intern, Diarlen Leon, who was very instrumental in securing the families that hosted each visitor. A huge task for an intern, but performed with a priceless touch of class.
After the introduction and welcome, the visitors were matched with our very own LAFD family. This was one of the warmest moments ever. You would think that these ten teenagers had finally discovered their relatives from Germany. I have nothing but the greatest respect and gratitude for the LAFD members that decided to bring these kids home. They and their families opened their homes to make a “dream come true” for the German visitors for two weeks. It is my pleasure to recognize: Jim and Alexandra Prabhu from 37’s, Shannon Keith, and Wendy Saffo from 48’s, Nathan and Rebecca Sweet from 29’s, James and Monique Sharlein from 92’s, Bennett and Suzann Rogers from 5’s, Brian and Katy Jones from 33’s (triplejones), Frank and Lisette Larez from 29’s, and Craig and Victoria White from 88’s. Prior to leaving the museum, the entire group boarded a chartered Starline Tour bus and took a one hour tour of Hollywood and the Sunset Strip, sponsored by the councilman’s office.
These families had the capacity to take the teens to discover the wonders of California including Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Lake Tahoe, San Pedro, Lake Arrowhead, just to name a few places, and of course, shopping, shopping, shopping – all things that we do every day. The kids were ecstatic.
On the 24th of July, all of the families were invited to the residence of Dr. Bernd Fisher, the Consulate General of Germany at Los Angeles, for a reception and welcome by Dr. Fisher. There the families were all awarded with a Certificate of Appreciation from the office of Councilman Tom LaBonge, and co-signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti. A big thank you goes out to Dave Wagner and Juliette Brandolino from The Firemen’s Grapevine magazine, Todd Leitz from MySafeLA, and Karen Wagener from The LAFD Foundation. All of these individuals had a hand in the planning phases of the exchange process and Todd Leitz also hosted one of the chaperones in his home for the two week stay. Kudos to all of these fine people for their participation and support.
The relationships that were created from this exchange will live forever. The American families are now part of the German families, thanks to the fire service. Next year, we hope to do another exchange and this time, we will send our children to Berlin to stay with Berliner Fire families.
Stay tuned and get involved.
By Isaac Burks. LAFD retired