Monday, May 22, 2006

May 22, 2006 American Heroes


Consider This for May 22, 2006--American Heroes

Four Denver firefighters were hurt fighting fires in the past week. One remains in the hospital in critical condition as I write this.

I have always had a huge amount of respect for firefighters.

Anyone who runs into a burning building when everyone else is running out of the same building deserves all of our respect.

Many of the thousands of people killed in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, were New York City firefighters. Some had actually gone into the building, performed rescues, left the building, and then returned to do it all over again. Many died after they had gone back into the building for the last time.

For most of us, the most dangerous thing we do all day is drive to and from work. Considering how stupid the average driver is today, that is a life-threatening event. But we do that with a high degree of never being hurt. We do that as the price of doing business, assuming that everyone else is as smart or careful as we are.

Last week two young men had left a softball game and ended up dead and having killed a 20-year-old new bride when the men’s car landed on top of her car. The accident is being investigated as having alcohol involved. Softball plus alcohol plus an airborne car plus gravity equals three dead young people.

Just remember that our firefighters do these death-defying acts for a living. They go to work knowing that they might not make it home at the end of their shift.

They are American Heroes.

When I was a New York City Police Officer in the 1960s, I spent a lot of time with firefighters. The NYPD had an arrangement with FDNY. The firefighters would go out on a call, and the police would stay in the fire station protecting their belongings and their food.

It was a nice arrangement because if it happened at the right time of day, the cop would get a great meal. Firefighters in addition to being American Heroes are also great cooks.

When I worked in the South Bronx, the crooks would actually pull a fire box or call in a fire just to get the firefighters out of the station so they could burglarize it. Sometimes they would even steal the food that was being prepared when the alarm came into the station.

Imagine having to run out of your house for an hour or two and leaving all of the doors open with all your valuables in full view. Even in sleepy Summit County it would not pay to do this. Eventually someone would figure out that everything was free for the pickings.

I get upset every time I hear someone complain about the fire truck in the grocery store parking lot. You know that they are shopping for their meal. They eat a communal meal because it is not like they can go to McDonald's or Wendy's or Burger King. When the alarm goes off, they have to be ready to go. Even if they are in the produce section of Safeway.

Many work a Kelly shift too. That normally means they will work 24 hours on and 24 hours off for three days and then be off for four days. People get upset about that because the firefighters get paid to sleep. That is true, but they sleep with one eye and both ears open.

The people who complain about the shifts or the grocery shopping should all have to wait 30 minutes when they have a coronary at 2:00 a.m. some morning. Call 911 and have the operator tell you that she will have to run down the crew because they are all home sleeping or that they all decided to go to eight different restaurants to eat.

I personally think our fire service, in Summit County or out in the real world, is a bargain for what we pay in taxes. We get more than a dollar’s worth of value for one tax dollar.

The next time you see a group of firefighters in the grocery store shopping, walk up to them and thank them for taking the time and consideration to shop together and bringing the fire truck along so they are always ready to come save your life.

And the next time you hear someone complain about the fire department, give them a piece of my mind, or, if you feel like it, give them a piece of yours.

The next time you see a fire truck going down the road, don’t think of it as being filled with firefighters. Think of it as being filled with American Heroes.

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