Doing Better Best Honors Fallen Heroes

Numerous sources offer ideas to training officers for lesson plans that will help work through problems experienced by other departments.


Numerous sources offer ideas to training officers for lesson plans that will help work through problems experienced by other departments.

On Sept. 11, 2001, our nation was shaken. Our souls were tried. The American people's resolve that day was so strong you could touch it. Patriotism was evident on every street corner and on the steps of every building. As Americans, we stood united. Our forefathers would have hurt to their core for our losses. They also would have been so proud of our nation. Remaining strong and committed to the cause they set in motion over 200 years ago.

Many of the family members of those victims remember this day as one of abject horror. They had their loved ones stolen from them before their time. Many people died that day in Arlington, Va., New York and Pennsylvania. The numbers continue to add up. Those living with the loss have been shattered too. Nothing will ever be the same.

We all took time to remember those Americans that perished in an impossible-to-comprehend nightmare. As firefighters, we tend to remember the 343 members of FDNY's Bravest. This is because we have a window on the world that gives us one perspective. It is not wrong to put so much weight on their supreme sacrifice. Indeed they went into hell on earth, knowing the evils that were waiting for them. They went in without a selfish thought. Their mission was to save as many people as possible. This is the essence of the job of a firefighter.

As our collective memory fades, we discuss that day as a historical event. Emotions play less of a role. The same thing happens after many tragic events in human nature. People remember where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, but less of how they felt. No doubt, Abraham Lincoln's assassination had the same effect as did the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion and Pearl Harbor. These all carry great weight. None more or less important than another. Marks on our souls. This is the price of being human.

Six years later, we still pause to reflect on the dedication of the men and women that gave their lives that day. The pain may be less for some. The loss is still present for others. We all continue to hold them in our hearts out of respect. We honor our heroes by keeping the tradition of remembrance services alive.

Keeping tradition alive is a hallmark of the fire service. That is a positive statement. Sometimes however, we perpetuate negative traditions. We continue to do things one way because "it has always been done that way." This may not be the best practice. Bad decisions and mistakes need not be repeated. They are if we fail to learn and change. "Thinking the way we always thought, gets us to where we always got." This is not always desirable.

To all of the men and women that have died in the line of duty, we owe our gratitude for unwavering service. They absolutely deserve the title of "hero". Firefighter Warren Payne and Firefighter Paul Cahill of Boston were taken while doing their job. Worcester's tragedy in December 1999, took six more heroes. The list gets longer everyday.

To the growing list we call heroes, a new breed of names should also be added. The new list of names needs to include all of the firefighters and officers that work to train their people to prevent similar tragedies. These training officers are educating and training the people on the frontlines. They strive to take us from where we once were, beyond where we are, to where we should be.

Good training officers use "best practice" examples from places that have made mistakes, corrected them and learned form them. Numerous sources offer ideas to training officers for lesson plans that will help work through problems experienced by other departments (or their own). Doing this in training, under optimal conditions, identifies areas that need the most polishing. This method of skills review allows for real world and real time scenarios without the added risk of deteriorating building conditions. Presumably, though not always, injuries can be prevented - or at least minimized.

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