Adjusting his glasses, Walter Nail of Evans sat back in a chair inside a Martinez fire station and began reading several letters of sympathy sent to him from his friends in Germany.
"All Germans mourn with the American people," read one e-mail - dated Sept. 12 from Walt and Bea Mizera of Einhausen, Germany. "The older ones remember the time after 1945 and the Berlin crises. The younger know the history when the Americans helped the Germans. In our thoughts and our hearts, we are close to the American nation."
Nail then opened an envelope bearing two money orders valued at $500 each. He presented the gifts to Martinez Fire Chief Doug Cooper, along with the letters and a few Einhausen history books.
Nail was there on behalf of the people of Einhausen, who wished to have their $1,000 donation - collected by the Music Band of the Einhausen Volunteer Fire Brigade and residents through a festival - delivered to the families of New York firefighters.
The brotherhood had been formed more than 30 years ago by way of joint concerts between Army musicians and the fire department music group in Einhausen.
"I think you can say the same thing for musicians and firemen," said Nail, who has traveled to Einhausen several times since he was stationed there in the 1960s as a member of an Army band. "There's an international bond there.
"I've known these guys for some time. So, I've known the generosity of the German people. This was just another example."
Nail was asked to deliver the money and other items to the United States during a trip he made to Einhausen after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
While in the town of about 6,000 people, located between Frankfurt and Heidelberg, Nail said he witnessed American flags, candlelight vigils and a spirit of giving.
"In Einhausen itself, all of the storefronts had an American flag in their windows," he said.
The thoughts of the Einhausen firefighters were expressed in another letter brought back by Nail.
"We mourn about the death of hundreds of our firefighting colleagues," it read. "For the victims and for the relatives, we hope to do a small support with our donation."
When Nail returned to the United States, he decided to bring the Martinez Fire Department into the fold. The department has allowed Nail's local German Friendship Club to use its facilities for meetings. Firefighters from Germany also have often visited the Martinez station.
Nail presented the money to the Martinez station, which in turn forwarded it to the Emerald Society - the official pipes and drums organization of the New York Fire Department.
And while seated at his desk across from Nail, Chief Cooper said the donation meant a lot to firefighters.
"I always knew that there was a brotherhood among firefighters, whether you were a firefighter in Germany or America," he said. "But to find out the support that this entire community had for the United States, I was overwhelmed."
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