Congressman Paul Tonko, left, and Rotterdam Junction Fire Dept. Chief Shawn Taylor stand outside the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
continued Before finding his seat, he had to check all his equipment like a jacket and his cell phone, and then pass through the final metal detector before going onto the balcony and finding his seat.
“I had by far the best seat in the house,” Taylor said.
He said his seat was directly in front of and to the left of the president, which placed him just below First Lady Michelle Obama. He was about 40 yards from where Obama gave his speech and he said the room isn’t as big as it looks on television.
“I had a better seat then (Michelle Obama) did,” he joked. “(The seats) were just like old fashioned movie theater seats … antique seats.”
He was seated next to a nuclear naval commander of a submarine, a congressman’s wife and in front of him was a solider that had lost a leg and hand in an IED explosion. There was also an Air Force combat representative and a marine.
“I didn’t get a chance to see a whole lot of other guests,” he said. “With the exception of the marine and naval commander to my right, I didn’t see too many other guests.”
Taylor said he was honored to be among the crowd in attendance.
“It was great to be there knowing I was representing all of the fire departments in New York that had situations just like ours,” he said. “My concept was to work for problems that they were still having.”
Tonko introduced him to many representatives and Taylor said he was able to share his story and the need for continued aid and support to flood victims. He said everyone he talked to was very receptive of his message.
“I had met with a lot of the congressmen just to keep that idea of what happened fresh in their mind,” he said. “A lot of the times this stuff, as time goes on, kind of fades away and the urgency isn’t there.”
He met several representatives one-on-one before the president’s address and spent a few minutes with each one. He said he couldn’t recount the names of all people he talked to since there was “a ton” of notable figures in the room.
“They know there is needs out there, but it was good to have a face … to the needs so it doesn’t get forgotten about,” he said. “When a disaster bill comes up on the floor, I just hope they remember me there and what I was pushing as important.”