The friendships are built from the shared experience. In spite of our differences we all fight fires the same way. It doesn't take a catastrophic event like working together in the dust of the World Trade Center or the flood waters of the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. It is the contacts you make while attending a class or a conference and that experience is what makes us close.
In the past, firefighters would exchange the salutation, "see ya at the big one." Meaning if it was bad we would all be there, together. On Sept. 11 we were all together. I don't hear anyone using that phrase anymore, as one of the brothers put it. "We had the big one and won't be seeing a lot of friends for awhile." Now it seems we end our conversations with "stay safe." Which carries a whole lot more meaning and is said with more feeling and emotion because we want to see each other again, soon.
I have shared many stories in this series and tried my best to explain the traits of good leaders from my experience.
For many fire service leaders knowing whether or not you have made a difference is difficult to measure. The job was there before you joined, and will be there long after you are gone. The hope is that you have made an impression.
I have received many breaks along the way. I know I didn't do it alone. I like to think those breaks came from being recognized for my hard work. I have also had some difficult moments. No sour grapes, it was all part of the journey. Do I wish it were easier? Of course, I would be lying if I said anything else. If it is worth doing it is not going to be easy, but it will be worth it. The harder it is to achieve the more you will appreciate it because you have worked hard for it and earned it.
I would like to end with one more special thank you, to Jerry Knapp. A longtime friend and mentor and without whose advice I would have never put pen to paper. He told me many years ago, "Toph, (my nickname) don't rant, write! If you feel that way someone else has to.". With a head full of ideas and his positive encouragement I started writing. Armed with the editors' names of a few magazines I fired off some of my ranting, uh writing. The rest as they say is history.
I hope that in some little way I have made you better for my service. I hope that this "schmuk from the truck" has inspired you. If I could do it so can you. I am proud of my journey. I hope you can be proud of yours and it is my hope that you will have something exceptional to show for it.
CHRISTOPHER FLATLEY, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a 20-year veteran of the FDNY and a lieutenant currently assigned to Ladder Company 21 in Manhattan. Chris has twice served as chief of the Blauvelt, NY, Volunteer Fire Company and is currently the assistant chief and training coordinator. He is a nationally certified Fire Instructor 1 and is an instructor at the Rockland County, NY, Fire Training Center and holds a degree in fire protection technology. He is a Master Exercise Practitioner on the Exercise Design Team through the Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness. View all of Chris' articles here. You can reach Chris by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.