The Prince of Wales met some of New York's bravest and discussed the importance of prioritizing their mental well-being
Prince William is meeting some of New York's bravest.
The Prince of Wales, 41, headed to an FDNY firehouse on Tuesday as part of his two-day trip to New York City. While most of his overseas tour surrounded his Earthshot Prize and other environmental issues as well as meetings at the United Nations, the firehouse visit surrounded another cause close to William's heart: the mental well-being of first responders.
The Ten House fire station is located downtown near the World Trade Center, and six members of the firehouse were killed in the terrorist attacks in 2001. Despite suffering severe damage, Ten House served as a critical command center and recovery site in the days following 9/11, and it was two years before the firehouse was fully rebuilt. The west façade of the building features the FDNY Memorial Wall, which the Prince of Wales viewed upon arrival.
Prince William met both new recruits and long-serving firefighters to hear about their experiences working in the city and discuss the importance of prioritizing their mental health.
Hamza Ahmed, one of the firefighters who showed Prince William around during the visit, said the royal was "very interested."
"He was very intrigued by everything. He had a lot of different questions. We discussed the helmets, where they come from, the embroidery with all the patches, he inquired about those as well," he said.
Ahmed showed Prince William how they stage their gear so they're ready to go as quickly as possible to an emergency.
"He discussed military stuff, first responder stuff," the firefighter explained. "I always appreciate anybody who’s interested in that because you do have to take an oath to put forth the service, and it takes a lot to go through that. It’s really nice to see somebody who appreciates that.”
Lt. Drew Kane, who is also a licensed social worker, said he gave Prince William pamphlets on suicide awareness and PTS disorder.
"It was apparent that he understood the topic," he said. "You could just tell in his presence that he knew what he was talking about with firsthand experience."
"He seemed to be very, very impressed with where we were and where we are now," he added.
The royal has dedicated much of his time to visiting with emergency workers, from first responders to care teams during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also has spoken about his own experiences working as an air ambulance helicopter pilot and an RAF Search and Rescue pilot.
“I took a lot home without realizing it,” he said in 2018. “You see [so] many sad things every day that you think life is like that.”
William added, “You’re always dealing with despair and sadness and injury. The attrition builds up and you never really have the opportunity to offload anything if you’re not careful.”
The royal was given a few gifts to bring home to his kids: Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. They received small rubber fire trucks with the fire house's logo, pens, notebooks and T-shirts from their stair climb.
After leaving the fire station, Prince William walked across the street for an impromptu walkabout, shaking hands, chatting and posing for photos with locals and tourists who had gathered outside hoping for a glimpse of the future king.
He was gifted three classic "I Love NY" shirts for his children and said that he would "love" to bring George, 10, Charlotte, 8, and Louis, 5 to the Big Apple "one day," according to reporter Carly Ledbetter on X (formerly Twitter).
A mother and daughter who spoke with Prince William tell PEOPLE that the royal was asking everyone their names and where they're from. The daughter told him she had seen him earlier this year at King Charles' coronation and shared with him that she studied abroad in London.
A man named Safwon tells PEOPLE he joked with Prince William that he was following the royal because he also saw him in U.K., where Safwon is from. He took a selfie with the prince, calling it "the money shot!"
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After landing at Newark airport on Monday afternoon, Prince William's trip headed to Governors Island by boat to hear from the Billion Oyster Project's efforts to revitalize New York’s waterways. By restoring oyster reefs in New York Harbor, they will provide a habitat for many marine species, filter water and help shield New York City shorelines from storm damage.
On Tuesday, Prince William spoke at the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit, where the 15 finalists for this year's awards were announced. The five winners, who will be revealed during the awards ceremony in Singapore next month, will each receive $1.2 million to promote their organizations' sustainability projects.
It's likely that Prince William will head back to the U.K. after his final engagement in the Big Apple wraps, as King Charles and Queen Camilla are also heading overseas this week. Buckingham Palace previously announced that the royal couple will head to France from Sept. 20 to Sept. 22 for a state visit. King Charles, 74, and Queen Camilla, 76, were originally scheduled to visit the country in March, but they postponed the trip due to riots happening across France at the time.
While Prince William is not required to be in the U.K. when his father is traveling, he is one of the King's Counsellors of State — a member of the royal family who can carry out constitutional duties for King Charles if he is abroad or unwell.
Prince William was last in the U.S. in late 2022 when he and Kate Middleton attended the second Earthshot Prize awards show in Boston. The city was a natural choice to host the ceremony — the Earthshot Prize was inspired by Boston area native John F. Kennedy's Moonshot, the president's bold mission to send mankind to space.
In addition to the star-studded ceremony that saw David Beckham and Shailene Woodley (among other famous faces) announce winners, the Prince and Princess of Wales undertook a number of engagements during their trip across the pond, from the pair sitting courtside at a Boston Celtics game (including a Jumbotron moment!) to Kate visiting Harvard's Center on the Developing Child to William meeting with President Joe Biden.
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