The weather today has been conducive to reflecting on a number of subjects. To be honest, Sunday is the day that I usually write my “More Straight Talk” Column, after I have had the opportunity to think about the events of the week and watching a number of the Sunday news shows. I never really focus on the subject I’ll write about until that day, but on occasion, a subject matter will come to me earlier, but I would try to keep an open mind about the subject matter of the week.
While sitting next to the window and having a late morning cup of coffee, I was reminded that September of 2020 would mark the 50th anniversary of when I joined the Concord, New Hampshire Fire Department. It was 50 years ago when I first walked through those front doors of the Central Station on Warren Street and began a remarkably interesting journey in my life.
I believe that journey made me a better person, for it prepared me for a professional and personal life that allowed me to understand why strong moral principles and integrity are two of life’s most important character traits.
I’m not saying anyone of us is perfect, for we are all human and are subject to the frailties demonstrated in our everyday lives. I think we’ve all done things that turn our stomachs into a knot on occasion and that is usually because our moral principles set off alarms to let us know we might not be making some of the best decisions.
By doing so, we have the opportunity to modify our decisions and make the right choices in life, to live up to the principals which make us a better person.
Meeting those men 50 years ago helped mold me into the person I would eventually become. They placed the needs of others, perfect strangers above those of their own. The men and women who rushed into the Trade Towers 19 years ago this month, did so as very principled professionals.
I’ve often heard it said, “Integrity is doing something that is right, even when no one is watching.”
Those firefighters, EMS and law enforcement professionals on that day 19 years ago didn’t look around for a camera or film crew, they just simply did their jobs, as they were trained to do.
I remember being trained not to look at “who,” the person was that needed our assistance, but instead to look at what their needs were, and to do our absolute best to meet those requirements. To show compassion where none is in evidence and to always do it with respect. I have always been humbled to have been accepted into a profession we held in common and hoped I had never stained that wonderful tradition of service we shared.
Many of the men I worked with were from my dad’s generation. Many of them veterans from Korea and World War II. Their actions had earned my respect from a time before my birth and those of my age were proud to grant them that respect they so rightly deserved.
We all came from working–class families. There were no Harvard Degrees or silver spoons. If you were to gain their respect, you would have to earn it the old fashion way by working for it. No special privileges were granted and only hard work and perseverance on the job would allow you acceptance into the ranks. Complainers and those that would question a command were not tolerated. Everyone would understand their responsibilities and only a 110% effort would be acceptable, nothing less.
There were days of great sadness on the job, as the loss of life, whether young or old was never soon forgotten and you would always wonder whether you could have done more to avert that tragic loss which we worked so diligently to avert.
As I read or listen to the terrible events that seem to permeate the headlines found in today’s media, I tend to wonder what has happened to the pride our nation once held for those that chose to proudly serve our citizenry throughout this great nation.
I was humbled last week to stand beside a crew member from Engine 25 of the NYFD as he stood in the parking lot at Station 50 of the Marco Island Fire/Rescue Department. I had never met the gentleman before but am proud that he and I shared a common thread within our lives which will forever provide us with a connection that will never be broken.
I will never forget that warm September 11th day in 2001 which saw me separated by only 30 minutes from when I should have been standing in the parking lot of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. For that morning I was supposed to discuss the possible refitting of the ARFF (Airport Rescue Fire Fighting) vehicle that would provide support for landings of helicopters at the facility. Instead, it would be struck by American Airlines Flight 77 as it slammed into the building at 9:37 AM on that fateful day.
If I could be granted one wish, it would be of course that the events of that fateful day of September 11th would never have happened. However, I cannot rewrite history, but as I look at our nation today, I can only pray that the pride, patriotism and sense of unity be restored to this great nation. Should that be possible, for more than just the few fleeting moments, the unification of us as Americans would grant us the capability of overcoming any challenges and defeating any foe for the good of mankind.