Tuesday, April 29, 2014

We’ll Take it From Here

They didn’t know going in
But they knew, they knew
But when all Hell broke loose
They should have withdrew

That wasn’t in their nature
They had to push ahead
Instead of going the safe way
Took the hero’s way instead

We’ve each faced that moment
When we have to decide
That’s the point when lesser men
Retreat safely outside

But not these brave firefighters
They would have none of that
For they had a job before them
Which they had to get at

So they pushed ever forward
Through smoke, through heat
No giving up now for them
No sounding retreat

But the fire got behind them
And their water ran out
That’s when they realized
And in crept some doubt

“Is someone coming to get us?”
You could now hear their fear
The Lieutenant calls another Mayday
Hoping someone will hear

They fought bravely still, however
Asking for more water
Letting their brothers know
Saying, “It’s getting hotter”

Only another fireman can gauge
By a muffled transmission
The moment a battle against fire
Becomes a rescue mission

Every man on that scene
Knew only too well
Without quick intervention
This could be a death knell

Their brothers fought to reach them
But it was not to be
They were ordered from the building
Despite each man’s plea

We know what the dangers are
Before we sign on
We put our lives on the line
From day one and thereon

Now these heroes will be honored
By all of their peers
We’ll march and salute them
Try to hold back our tears

God bless you, Mike and Ed…
You’ve been given “all clear”
So go enjoy your rest brothers
We’ll take it from here

Back Bay of Boston

A wind-whipped day in the Back Bay of Boston
Gusts approaching 40 miles-per-hour
Heavy smoke obscuring the view of the street
A cloak of black hiding all but a Tower

A fire had begun in the basement of a brownstone
Located at two-ninety-eight Beacon Street
As apparatus maneuvered to the front of the building
Remaining residents began their retreat

While first-in Jakes searched the building for victims
Others headed down toward the basement
They need to quickly put water on the seat of the fire
Concentrating on their line placement

There’s nothing more important than containing the flames
Before it can blossom to the stairs
To reach the fire entails descending a red-hot chimney
The heat burning your neck hairs

Crossing the Gates of Hades is the only true comparison
To which you can relate this task
Lost in the darkness despite all this fire and heat
Peering for a glow through your mask

A blaze in a large apartment building requires more
Than a single Ladder and Engine
Nine Alarms are transmitted to call additional help
To contain any horizontal extension

Any firefighter who has made that trip into Hell
Will say you just have to push through
For once on the bottom there’s at least a little relief
Unless the fire gets behind you

With the wind whipping through the entire building
The flames can play hide and seek
One minute they’re located right in front of your eyes
And the next behind you they sneak

The boys on the Engine had battled to the basement
And thought they had an escape
But the gusts from the wind played its deadly hand
And the seeds of disaster took shape

At first it was a Mayday that seemed fairly common
At least as these things go
But it was quickly apparent their exit was blocked
And the flames were beginning to grow

Things can turn swiftly at the scene of a fire
From good to bad to worse
For this very reason we are continually drilling
Every contingency is rehearsed

When these firefighters had first entered the building
It seemed a job like many before
But the scene had transformed from calm to utter chaos
By the time they were carried out the door

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Reflections on the Trayvon Martin killing & Zimmerman Trial

Zimmerman trial is now in the hands of the jury. I only hope that we've come far enough as a society to avoid any violence if the jury acquits. We have the best legal system in the world but it is, after all, an imperfect system that usually tilts toward the rights of the accused.

My opinion:

I've only watched or read about this trial off and on but I believe that Zimmerman should be found guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter. But...I don't know whether or not the prosecution proved its case. I'm also not sure of how Florida's "stand your ground" law is applicable, therefore I believe he will get off.

My thought as a firefighter on the street - as many of my friends are police officers, fire and EMS personnel, I think we all have had many encounters with the "wanna-be's" out there. Almost without exception they do more harm than good at emergency scenes. I think that Zimmerman was a "wanna-be" who should have heeded the advice of the 911 operator to back off and let the police respond to handle it. (Although by continuing to follow Martin he broke no law.) Zimmerman also took a loaded firearm with him - as opposed to a whistle or taser, etc.

Again, I hope for a peaceful reaction no matter what the decision.

The verdict was not guilty. Is it the correct verdict?? I have no idea. All I really do know is that a 17 y/o boy is dead and Zimmerman was an asshole for continuing to follow him and carrying a handgun in that situation. Another “wanna-be” fucks up. Nothing new there. Again, like I said, was he guilty of 2nd degree murder or manslaughter.....I really don't know.

I do know (because I'm a passionate guy regarding individual's rights) that I can't put myself in the mindset of a black man. If I were black I might be totally disgusted and offended. But I'm not and as I see it via my eyes and experiences this was not a case about race. I also have to applaud any person who is genuinely upset with the verdict but would never even consider participating in a violent or destructive protest.

To my white firefighter friends out there….

I’ve been trying to understand how this verdict seems to divide people (almost exclusively) by race – even our own black firefighter friends who we trust and love like brothers. I think I can offer an analogy that can place this in perspective.

Compare this verdict to a court decision or political decision that cuts our pension once again. The general public (white firefighters) sees a 10 year suspension of our COLA’s as a reasonable fix to a terrible fiscal problem for the City. We firefighters (black firefighters) get pissed as hell and lash back in the media, etc. with statements such as, “Do you know how much we’ve been shit on over the last several years? This is just another example of how those with political power keep the working man down and in their place!”

The public knows nothing about firefighter struggles on a personal level, just as we know nothing of the history of the black person’s struggles with regard to racial discrimination that has kept them “in their place” over the last several years. While things are drastically different than a half century ago, none of us can claim that racism is completely a thing of the past!

Stay safe!

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Righteous Path

The Righteous Path

I hear much talk about the righteous path
The one that God doth chose
And those that believe that this is the way
Are doing God’s work, they suppose

The kingdom, the power, the might and the way
Will lead them to paradise in the end
But those who oppose this holy endeavor
Will never force them to bend

For the will of God is a one-way street
And only “His” people see the light
They’ll continue to force “His” will on others
For only “He” knows what is right

The problem I have with these holy wars
Is that everyone’s God is different
And it depends to which God that you pray
What “you” decide that “God” meant

Attacking or conquering in the name of righteousness
Are the misguided goals of a few
For no one can claim to understand God’s plan
Or for another, his faith renew

But this is exactly the way of the world
Always has and always will be
For mortal men are simple in intellect
Limited in what they can see

Preaching to others about what to believe
Is a simplistic plan for destruction
And attempting to force your beliefs on them
Can only lead to corruption

For those with the power to enforce their will
Will always seek to control
And ultimate control can’t be shared with God
Even at the cost of their soul

So what is the answer to this endless quagmire
Will we ever learn to live together
Is there any chance we can respect each other
Do away with oppression forever

Sadly, I’d have to say, not in my lifetime
Nor the next few generations
We’ll have to evolve as a species first
To see beyond our limitations

But, hopefully, someday that time will arrive
When our differences seem rather petty
Until that day we must guide our children
So that they, then, will be ready

Forged By Fire

Forged by fire

Long ago I began this journey
Not knowing what to expect
Now those who came before me
Have earned my utmost respect

I realize that it’s not “my” destiny
That keeps me pushing forward
It’s more about “our” traditions
Than any personal rewards

Forged by fire
Hardened like steel
Makes me question
Exactly what’s real

Started out as flexible
Willing to bend any way
Taught early to fight my fear
Not let it get in the way

So as I edge closer to retirement
I feel it’s my sacred obligation
To pass on the lessons I’ve learned
To another firefighting generation

I didn’t come to this job with experience
I learned it all from others
They taught me the way they learned
Straight from their veteran brothers

It’s never been about any individual
Firefighting’s a team sport
If there be only one lesson I could pass on
It’s believe in what you’re taught

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Respect & Pride

John Lennon once wrote “All you need is love”. In a person’s early years that might be right on, but in our adult worlds I have to disagree with him on this one. While love is something that is extremely important, and something we all crave, I submit that the one thing we all need most in our lives is something that Aretha Franklin sang about all those years ago also, “respect”.

Respect is earned – we’ve all heard that before, right? Well, by the time we’ve become adults our actions have already proven who we are – morally, socially, etc. While we are constantly evolving as beings, our core values are usually set in our early adulthood.

In recent years the respect level shown to firefighters by those outside our profession has been seemingly non-existent. We have been under constant attack by those who would accuse us of being overpaid and over-glorified public servants. Many outsiders don’t understand what we do or how we do it. None of the politicians have shown us the respect we deserve. To them we’re merely numbers on a budget ledger.

The one thing we have maintained during these recent attacks on our integrity is our mutual respect for each other. In our close knit brotherhood we’ve had each others’ backs and respected what our brothers and sisters have done or earned – by way of actions on the street or promotion to higher ranks. This has been true for as long as I can remember. For the Providence Fire Department this began to change as members became more and more disheartened under the parade of weak Chiefs of Department after Mike DeMascolo. It got continually worse until it bottomed out under George Farrell.

Once this chief was forced out I had great hope that things were going to change for the better. Well, they have……..yet they have not. We now have an administration in charge of our fire department that is attempting to restore the pride, the integrity and the honor to the PFD. Years of petty and personal decisions made to benefit a chosen few have lead the rank and file to lose the overall pride we once had for our great department. Although I may not always or completely agree with the way the new administration is going about it, their efforts could turn the tide in the right direction.

However…..they need to understand that we will never be as “spit & polish” as the military. We are the working man’s heroes. Part firefighter, part nurse, part plumber, part chemist, etc. – jacks-of-all-trades. We get our hands dirty on a daily basis. When a person is being attacked or robbed or threatened they call the police. When they find themselves in danger from any other source they call the fire department…and we always respond in a professional and timely manner. No matter what!

Another area that this administration fails to take into consideration when dealing with the individuals on the department is the importance of “honorable service” – especially a long and distinguished career of honorable service. This seems to mean nothing to them. They need to understand that for all the right strides taken to restore pride in our department, discounting the value of the individual’s service will most certainly sabotage any possible gains in that area. The rank and file members need to believe that their service and loyalty toward the betterment of the department is a two-way street.

I believe that until this administration understands these facts our department will never turn the corner toward becoming, once again, a fire department that we can all take pride in.