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.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013



I’m 58…..but I feel like I’m 70.

I’ve been on the job for 32 years…..but it feels like 50.

I’m sooooo deep-down dog tired.

I used to love this job… I dread going to work.

I tire too quickly, drink too much and cry too easily…..

I used to expect the best from everyone…..but now I trust no one!

I used to care about everyone… I only care about my family, my fellow first responders and the victims

I used to write in an attempt to change hearts and minds… I write to keep sane

Getting very close to the time to pack it all in and retire.

Too much abuse to my body… my heart… my very soul.

Nothing seems to change; at least not in positive measures.

I’ve just about lost hope on the direction of society and I fear for my children’s and grandchildren’s futures, but feel powerless to protect them.

I desperately want to some how, magically, wake up to a brighter tomorrow but…..

I’ve seen too many suffer, too many perish, too many hate and too many simply demand that “we” provide for “them”…..entitlement!

I’ve seen too many people lie & cheat & worse with no consequence…..and too many good people punished in the name of “image” or “political correctness”…..

I’ve seen too many people abuse the power afforded them and too many good, decent, moral people who feel (correctly so) powerless to make a difference.

At some point a person has to walk away…………………………

Monday, April 22, 2013

West, Texas Fire & Boston Heroes (again)


It’s hard to imagine that a Volunteer Fire Department that has been without a Line of Duty Death for it’s over 100 year existence, serves a community of about 2,800 residents and only had approximately 30 members could lose 9 members in a split second….but that’s exactly what happened in West, Texas this past week. This department reportedly responded to only around 120 calls per year.

Yet, these members responded without hesitation to an obviously large fire in, by far, the most hazardous property in the entire area. All they knew was that their community and its residents were facing a major emergency and they were the ones that had signed on to “protect life and property” in their town. It was not their job, but it was their duty. They knew that the only way to prevent a catastrophic disaster was to act bravely and act fast. So, they rushed to the scene and very quickly paid the ultimate price. The price that all First Responders know, in the back of their minds, that they might be called on to pay some day.

Heroes are not the ones who stand up in front of you and pound on their chests to let you know how tough and brave they are. Real heroes are born of circumstance. They are the ones who step up and answer the call without thinking of themselves when faced with choice of putting themselves in danger to assist and protect strangers or distancing themselves from the danger expecting “others” to step up. Real heroes are the “others”. These men from West, Texas are the real heroes.

So are the First Responders, doctors, nurses and good Samaritans who stepped up in Boston and its surrounding communities earlier this week. Be proud that America has so many potential heroes amongst us who are willing to place themselves in danger to assist the rest of us in our time of need. This week has certainly put the spotlight directly on the “great” qualities and character that makes this country so strong. Our willingness to stand tough and fight will always outweigh any hardships, natural or man-wrought, that we may face as a country!

God bless all those who have stood tall this past week!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombings

Yesterday, in Boston, evil once again reared its ugly head. It’s becoming all too commonplace in this world of ours. We’re becoming numb to it all. That is, until it hits close to home.

Remember that these cowardly acts perpetrated against innocent victims in other parts of the globe have the same personal consequences to real people that this act had in Boston. It’s easy to ignore the pain and the horror when it’s halfway around the world, but it is exactly the same. We can only search out and punish the perpetrators and pray for the victims and their loved ones and families.

Another common factor in all these terrible scenes is the incredible heroism and dedication of the First Responders. This was never as visible as it was on 9/11 where hundreds of firefighters, police officers and EMS personnel were witnessed by millions on TV running into the towers before the unthinkable happened. The same reaction could be witnessed yesterday by all First Responders and other Good Samaritan civilians and doctors. They rushed to help even after a second bomb echoed in their ear, making them aware that there could be more attacks to come. God bless them all.

I have been a firefighter for over 32 years and it never surprises me that these men and women act this way at the most terrifying moments we encounter as human beings. Sure, we train for Mass Casualty events quite often. Training, however, only teaches you what needs to be done in these situations, but it takes a special quality in an individual to actually react so unselfishly and selflessly at a moment’s notice. These men and women will not forget the horrific sights they saw yesterday – never. They will be awakened with these images for the rest of their lives. But….even knowing the dangers they were immediately facing and being aware of the long term effects that they would encounter they willingly, and eagerly, rushed to the scene to make a difference. That’s what they do. That’s what we do.

I pray for all those who were so horribly affected and I’m extremely proud of my brother and sister First Responders. God bless them all!