Over this last weekend, I had the opportunity to chat with several of you regarding a number of different issues that were of interest to both you and me. One of them revolved around the recent loss of my brother from pancreatic cancer, a disease that has impacted the lives of so many of my friends and neighbors. I do appreciate the outpouring of support from you all, both far and near as we’ve struggled to deal with such a tragic loss within our family and some of yours. Thank you for being so honest with me, I have had a difficult time dealing with it and being able to speak honestly and frankly with you has helped.
I also got a nice email from an owner down at the Villa De Marco West Condominiums, thanking me for a recent article I did regarding their successful project regarding damage done by Hurricane Irma. As you might recall, the hurricane and subsequent storm surge resulted in the washing away of the earthen material from under one of their buildings.
With the loss of that material, the seawall collapsed, but the building remained perched on top of the many pilings upon which it sat upon. The buildings remained structurally sound due to those pilings, but not inhabitable. If you’ve ever been to Venice, Italy you might recall seeing many of their structures supported in a similar way, along their iconic canals. Now if you didn’t want to go quite as far as Venice you might just take a ride up to the Village on Venetian Bay and view some of the beautiful condos built along Gulf Shore Boulevard that are also perched upon pilings and have a wonderful view along their pristine waterway.
That building and the damage done was visited by then–Governor Rick Scott who was escorted by former Chief of Police Al Schettino. The Governor’s wife had become acquainted with our chief due to some of the many committees he sat on and it was like a meeting of two old friends. He visited a number of sites on the island with Chief Schettino that were impacted by the storm and chatted with several city staff and council members.
I speak about this due to the magnitude of the challenge that was faced by that condo association’s volunteer board of directors and their management staff. Under the most challenging of circumstances, they persevered and overcame the task before them, under the most difficult conditions imaginable.
The work they did should stand as proof positive regarding the importance of not just placing a warm body in those important positions within these associations. Instead, the need to have dedicated and proficient individuals step forward to fill these seats on behalf of their owners.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the void that will be left as Chief Mike Murphy of the Marco Island Fire/Rescue Department vacates his two decades of service to our community. He and I have often spoken of how we both came to begin our careers at about the same time. It doesn’t seem possible that I walked through the doors of the Concord Central Fire Headquarters in September of 1970.
It’s funny when you look back on your life and how you can recognize those special moments that have helped determine the journey you’d take and those that have made a difference during that journey. I remember walking through the dayroom and being introduced to the men I’d work with over the next 4 years. At 20 years old I would think about how a 40 to 42-year-old man seemed so “old” to me at the time.
Today, I often think back and have memories about some of those older firefighters who had even served in World War II or Korea. They were tough as nails and the smartest thing I did was to “listen carefully” and keep my mouth shut.
That knowledge they gave me couldn’t be found in a book, or with a fancy degree, but it kept me alive during that time and for many years after that.
I loved the fire service; I think it had to do with the comradery that existed. The excitement that would pump through your veins when the alarm would go off and you’d roar out those doors at central station and stare ahead looking for the plume of smoke on the horizon.
I think because Chief Murphy and I shared some of the history of the profession we worked in gave us a special understanding of each other and why I came to respect him and call him a friend.
He has also been a friend to many of you on the island. He has gone beyond the call to console family members and impart upon his staff the need to understand why caring is such a large part of our job. That little bit of empathy can go a long way during a crisis, large or small.
Chief Murphy, you’ve done a great job, because you’ve left this department in better shape than when you found it. You’ve put together a team who shares your values. The footsteps you’ve left will provide those yet to come a pathway to great accomplishments and achievements should they reflect on your example, carrying on in a tradition that you’ve honored by your actions and words.
Thank you, and God Bless you, Barbara and your entire family. Enjoy the motorhome and the many trips you’ll take.