Here we are with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida and its deadly path from the shores of Louisiana, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, up through the country, charging into the Northeast with tornadoes, winds and torrential rains that have claimed nearly fifty lives in that area alone. And with every newscast, there was one constant from coast-to-coast: many, many rescues were effected by fire-rescue personnel. Yes, there were police, National Guard and even Coast Guard members performing rescues. Yet, most of the video clips displayed the actions of our braves Brothers and Sisters. Newscasters and reporters often used the words, "heroes" and "brave first responders."
As I write this entry, we are but six days from observing the twentieth anniversary of the 9|11 tragedy. On that day, we lost the following:
- 343 FDNY Firefighters
- 37 Police Officers of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
- 23 NYPD Police Officers
- 8 EMTS & Paramedics from private ambulance services
- 3 NY State Court Officers
- 1 Patrolman from the New York Fire Patrol
Subsequent to the 9|11 tragedy, first responders in general and firefighters in particular, were celebrated for their sacrifices, heroism and bravery. Yet the vast majority of First Responders and, especially firefighters, feel that we are just doing our jobs, whether we are career, volunteer, part-pay or WUI. We do what we do because it is what we choose to do. As one of our true mentors, the late Chief Alan Brunacini said, "Our job is to take care of Mrs. Smith on her worst day. Even if that worst day is because her cat is in a tree!"
Yet, the public sees us in another light as well - a "tax burden" almost anytime we need to bump our budgets, purchase new apparatus and equipment, negotiate union contracts or raise funds to recruit volunteers or to send members to educational seminars.
Outside of news stories, the public also sees "represented" on television and film. Many of us in or retired/disabled from the fire service, might say that the "best" TV show about firefighters/paramedics was "Emergency!" and the best movie was, "Backdraft." We were very lucky that the creators and producers of these two examples, were dedicated to an, worked closely with the two departments represented, Los Angeles County Fire Dept. and the Chicago Fire Dept. But, where are we on today's screens and what stories are being told.
The truth is, we First Responders don't perform our jobs to be on television or in the movies. Would we like to see a well-produced show or movie about us? Sure, why not? However, fame is not the impetus that brought to our chosen field. Rather, it is often other first responders we have seen, in our own communities or on the news, that give us that idea. Moreover, tens of children of those firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice on 9|11, have become members of the FDNY, following in their fathers' footsteps.
And to me, that's better than any TV show or movie.
May the love for and dedication to their families and community inspire all those who knew and loved the. May their souls be bound up in the Bond of Life. May their memories always be for a blessing and may they Rest in Peace.
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Founder & President of 5-Alarm Task Force Corp. and Creator & Host of the "5-Alarm Task Force" podcast.