Nightly News   |  December 03, 2010

Changed by 9/11, firefighter counsels peers

George Faller, a lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York, is making a difference by serving on the front lines and helping others who do. NBC’s Robert Bazell reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> here in new york city , we call our firefighters the bravest. they're there when you need them. they run in when others are running out, and nothing seems to scare them except perhaps talking about themselves. but with one of their own, it can be different. tonight, our robert bazell has a story about a firefighter making a difference.

>> reporter: george fowler, a lieutenant in the fire department of new york , leads the men on ladder 38 in the bronx.

>> you take that little extra second to get yourself squared away.

>> reporter: he also runs family and marriage counseling sessions. fowler began training as a therapist soon after he signed on as a firefighter in 1995 .

>> basically, i wanted to do a second career, have something lined up for after i retire.

>> reporter: but he never thought he would be treating firefighters or their families. 9/11 changed all that. the burdens on the survivors included enormous family and marital strains.

>> having an understanding of the culture.

>> reporter: fowler joined a huge counseling team, helping the fdny and made a profound discovery.

>> in the firehouse, i learned so much about relationships and what makes relationships work. i learned more there than i learned in my graduate program .

>> i'm not sure if the average person realizes what a dangerous job being a firefighter is.

>> reporter: margaret's son was a firefighter killed in the line of duty after 9/11. she says fowler helped her cope in many ways.

>> in any fire where you lose a firefighter, no one's fault but errors get made. and if you wanted to dwell on those things, you could drive yourself crazy.

>> reporter: providing counseling for the family that makes up the fire department , naturally led to counseling other similar families, especially the police and the military. fowler has counseled returning iraq and afghanistan veterans and survivors of the ft. hood shootings. he says the key to saving relationships is helping those on active duty deal with their feelings.

>> if you're going to be trained to shut off your emotions to do a great job, i think it's only fair to kind of train you to turn them back on.

>> reporter: making a difference by serving on the front line and helping others who do. robert bazell , nbc news, new york.