Prince William met firefighters from the first firehouse on the scene on 9/11 — and encouraged them to talk about their mental health so that problems don’t “build up,” a theme his estranged brother Prince Harry has spoken out on.
William, 41, visited FDNY’s Ten House on Liberty Street, in downtown Manhattan, Tuesday afternoon and warned there was a “stigma” to getting counseling when he himself was a first responder.
The heir to the UK throne served in the East Anglian Air Ambulance and as an RAF Search and Rescue pilot and is passionate about supporting the mental health and wellbeing of the emergency services.
Ten House lost six firefighters in 9/11 and Drew Kane of the FDNY Counseling Unit told Page Six: “It was apparent that he understood the topic — you could just tell he knew what he was talking about with firsthand experience.”
Arriving to crowds, William was greeted by Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, FDNY Manhattan Borough Commander Michael Ajello, and Lt. Kane.
While in the station, he asked the team: “How do you guys feel about mental health, is it something you guys talk about? Is there still a stigma?”
The royal then said it was important for them to speak about these issues so problems don’t “build up.”
Before he and Prince Harry became estranged, they had a joint campaign called HeadsUp to improve mental health awareness. William told his brother to seek counseling after he served in Afghanistan, Harry revealed in his tell-all memoir, “Spare.”
But since Harry quit royal duties in 2020 and moved to California with his wife Meghan Markle, the rift between the two has deepened, with the memoir making it apparently intractable.
William’s trip to New York had already drawn comparison’s to Harry’s when the older brother told Tuesday how he had jogged round Central Park without being noticed — a stark contrast to Harry’s claim of an hours-long, high-speed paparazzi pursuit through the streets of Manhattan in April.
As part of William’s visit, he was taken to the FDNY 9/11 Memorial Wall commemorating all the firefighters who lost their lives in the terror attack.
He also learned that Ten House was nearly destroyed during the terror attack. As a result, the fire house has its own 9/11 memorial inside, which the Prince was invited to view as well.
He also inspected some of their kit and a collection of hundreds of badges on the walls, which are taken from other fire houses and agencies from different states and collected when traveling.
“It’s like an exchange, everybody collects them,” a retired FDNY firefighter said.
While inspecting the firefighters’ kits, he asked them about their response times and how they get everything ready.
Speaking at a round table discussion about how first responders deal with mental health issues, William said: “One thing we’ve found quite useful was a text service, so whenever you’re feeling you need it, you can text someone.”
He was told that the trauma following 9/11 had helped to end the stigma surrounding firefighters asking for mental health support.
Drew Kane, the deputy director of NYFD’s counseling service unit, ran the discussion and told William that firefighters have started to come forward on their own accord to seek help.
“When I started in 1993 to now, it’s an incredibly different atmosphere.”
William asked: “What do you think was the turning point when it became more normal for the guys to talk about it?”
Kane told him that “the stigma was reduced by the monumental event of 9/11”, adding that it was “so overwhelming that we didn’t know how to cope.” The firefighters gave the prince presents for his children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, including rubber fire trucks and FDNY t-shirts.
Speaking after William’s visit, Kane said the Prince had been “very interested” in hearing about the team’s mental health.
He said: “He was very concerned and interested in mental health and our approach after 9/11 – what it was like then and what it is like now.
“We really took on a peer-to-peer approach to it…FDNY was first in the country to do this.
“It was apparent that he understood the topic, you could just tell in his presence that he knew what he was talking about with first hand experience,”said the officer.
After William left Ten House fire house, he walked over to greet the hundreds of people who had gathered to see him before being whisked off to Newark Airport.